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

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

The Primary Care – PTSD Screen is a brief four-question tool that can quickly identify parents at risk for PTSD (see Figure 2). If a parent has active PTSD symptoms, further evaluation should be recommended. It is important to encourage parents to voice any concerns they might have about seeking treatment. Parents can be assured they are not crazy and that development of PTSD is a response some parents have to the traumatic experiences they have shared with their child.

Figure 2.

Primary Care – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Screen
Source: Brymer et al., 2011.

A parent in crisis should be urged to go to the Emergency Room or to call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255; for Spanish/Español 1-888-628-9454). Treatment can also be initiated through the parent's primary care physician or a local community services board or health department. Psychologists, psychiatrists, or social workers can treat PTSD. The range of treatment options includes eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), exposure therapy, and relaxation therapies. Medications, such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tranquilizers, and noradrenergic β-receptor blockers (such as propranolol) are also being used in treatment and prevention of PTSD. The timing for initiation of treatment may also be important, allowing time for physical recovery from the traumatic event before therapy is initiated (Roberts, Kitchiner, Kenardy, & Bisson, 2009). More research is needed to determine the most effective interventions. The results of one randomized controlled trial report that EMDR was more effective than pharmacotherapy with an SSRI for adult onset PTSD (van der Kolk et al., 2007). A recent Cochrane Review by Hetrick, Purcell, Garner, and Parslow (2010) failed to demonstrate benefits of a combination of pharmacotherapy and psychological therapies to enhance recovery.


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