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

Parental Descriptions of PTSD

Lisa is the mother of four. Three of her children are triplets, and one of them has spina bifida. Lisa developed PTSD after the triplets were born, which coincided with other stressful events in her family. The PTSD was diagnosed by her obstetrician, and Lisa received medication that allowed her to experience a complete recovery. Lisa's story, some of which is shared below, illustrates pertinent aspects of PTSD in many parents.

The numbing of feelings that can occur with PTSD was evident when one of Lisa's triplets had a severe asthma attack. Riding in the ambulance to the hospital, the child stopped breathing, and a paramedic told Lisa that if she stayed calm, she could remain with her child. Lisa realized that she probably should be emotionally upset. Instead, she felt like she was in a "robot suit just performing the duties of a mother without emotion." Lisa also experienced hyper-arousal. She had an irrational fear that someone was going to place one of her children in the clothes washer or dryer. In fact, she was so sure this would happen that she could not let anyone help her with the laundry, and she frequently checked her washer and dryer to make sure a baby was not left inside. Another mother with PTSD commented on hyper-arousal as follows: "To live daily with the fact that you were like a time bomb ready to go off was dreadful. As time went on, I knew I was personally 'too hot to handle' and not nice to be with, as invariably, you could not help but have some of your inner state ooze or jump out at those who did come close" (Beck, 2004, p. 221). Poignantly, Lisa related that she could not laugh while she was experiencing PTSD and knew that she had recovered when she was able to truly laugh again.


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