Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) In Parents

Is This a Significant Problem?

Bernice D. Mowery, PhD, PNP, RN


Pediatr Nurs. 2011;37(2):89-92. 

In This Article


PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that occurs after a major traumatic event considered beyond the range of the usual human experience. Acute stress disorder (ASD), a strong predictor of PTSD (Shaw et al., 2009), is the early reaction to a traumatic trigger. With ASD, most psychological and physical symptoms occur in the first two weeks after a traumatic event (Rothbaum, Foa, Riggs, & Murdock, 1992). As distinct from ASD, the PTSD diagnosis does not include a dissociative symptom cluster (Bryant & Harvey, 1998) and requires that symptoms be present for longer than one month. PTSD symptoms (see Figure 1) fall into three major categories:

Figure 1.

Criteria for Diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Source: American Psychiatric Assocation (APA), 2000. Reprinted with permission from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (Copyright © 2000). American Psychiatric Association.

  • Re-experiencing phenomena, including nightmares and recurrent distressing thoughts of the event. For many parents, these symptoms can interfere with sleep.

  • Avoidance of thoughts, feelings, conversations, places, and people associated with the event; difficulty remembering important parts of the trauma; and numbing of general responsiveness. Parents may experience a decreased interest in formerly important activities; feelings of detachment from others; a limited range of emotion, including difficulty having positive feelings (such as love and happiness); and/or feelings of hopelessness about the future. Detachment and estrangement from their children and other people may also be felt.

  • Hyper-arousal symptoms can range from feeling "jumpy" or easily startled, feeling constantly like danger is lurking, to irritability and bursts of anger, to difficulty falling or staying asleep (Bisson & Andrew, 2008).


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