Caregivers suffering from PTSD is real and serious problem. Last week, we talked about the anguish involved with caregiver stress, but more research has shown that the stress remains long after the caregiving is done.

What is PTSD?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder brought on by a traumatic experience. Although this is most commonly tied to war veterans, PTSD also affects those who have undergone abuse, violence, accidents or survived a natural disaster. In short, anyone who has suffered a trauma is at risk of developing PTSD.

Does Caregiving Cause PTSD?

Yes, for many people. It’s not simply physically exhausting, but emotionally, mentally, and financially draining as well. This is especially true for adult children who take care of parents with dementia or a severe disability. Many of them feel an extreme amount of pressure and guilt to provide care, but feel powerless to stop the debilitating condition of their parents.

What are the Symptoms of PTSD?

The symptoms of this anxiety disorder are manifold and some people may experience a few or all of them.

  • Increased Anxiety
    If you’ve ever had a night terror then you’ll understand what this is like. Post trauma stress can manifest in your psyche and put you on high alert – all night.
  • Relive the Experience
    For caregivers this might mean you flashback to your loved one berating you during a time when they were sundowning. It may be feeling like you’ve lost them all over again. It could happen hand-in-hand with increased anxiety, where you’re suddenly on high alert and worried your loved one is wandering around the house.
  • Physical Pain & Mental Anguish
    Many caregivers suffering from PTSD report aches and pains that won’t go away. Additionally, many experience headaches and thoughts of hopelessness. They feel unable to move forward.
  • Antisocial Behavior
    Many caregivers detach from their families and friends, feeling numb, empty, and guilt-ridden. They may think about death and contemplate suicide.

The scary part about PTSD is that it can lead to suicide and that’s why it’s all the more important to be wary of what’s happening to you or your loved one. Everyone handles death differently, but if someone appears to be suffering some of the symptoms of post traumatic stress, then it’s time to get help.

How to Treat PTSD

In most cases, the best way to treat PTSD is with therapy. Depending on the caregivers situation, that might mean private, group or family therapy sessions. Some other helpful remedies include meditation, physical therapy (massages), and EMDR (or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Some doctors may also recommend alternative treatments like acupuncturists, chiropractors, and Reiki masters.

Ultimately though, the best way to treat PTSD is to recognize the symptoms and exercise self-awareness. You may not be okay and it’s more than okay to reach out. Remember that “self-care” should always come first.