Can Parenting cause PTSD?

Can Parenting cause PTSD?

PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is mostly associated with veterans suffering from mental illnesses due to their traumatic experiences in a war zone. However, PTSD comes in many forms other than that.

Do you know that the stress of parenting can also cause PTSD?

The definition of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder by the National Institute of Mental Health is a mental health issue caused by any scary, overwhelming, shocking, and dangerous event. It can be a one-time event or a series of prolonged exposure to certain stressful conditions. And we all know how stressful and demanding parenting can be.

It may come as a shock that parenting can cause such a serious mental health issue when you really love your children with all the devotion and dedication in the world. Well, for that, you must first familiarize yourself with what PTSD actually is.

 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

According to the official description, PTSD occurs when an individual suffers a threat of violence, harm, or injury. However, you must realize that not all threats are physical; sometimes, emotional trauma or mental stress can also trigger PTSD without any prior signs or warnings.

Additionally, you don't necessarily suffer from PTSD right after experiencing a traumatic event. You may lead a normal life, and PTSD strikes after a couple of years when you least expect it.

Any hurtful thoughts, bad feelings, and blow to your emotional or mental wellbeing can trigger anxiety, scary thoughts, and nightmares. All of these are classic symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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More Causes of PTSD

Here is a list of events and experiences that can work as a catalyst for PTSD.

  • The unexpected demise of a loved one
  • The violent death of a family member
  • Sexual or physical abuse
  • Acts of violence, domestic or otherwise
  • Being diagnosed with fatal illnesses etc

PTSD can also occur due to exposure to certain stressful events repetitively. Parenting is one of those situations where your body and mind keep absorbing the stresses, demands, and exertion, leading to developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

You may experience it during the first few years of becoming a parent or later in your life, especially when you are parenting teenagers. The conflicts, tantrums, behaviors, and worrying for their safety and other responsibilities are enough to tip you over the edge at any point.

If you are a parent treated for PTSD for the very reason of handling the stresses of parenting or for any other reason, it may return at any point in life. All it will take is a minor episode of any other trauma, and it can all come crashing down on you.

While you are juggling between your parenting responsibilities, you may experience a sudden short-term episode of PTSD as well. This is known as acute stress disorder; it can happen due to overwhelming experiences and may last from days to a month.

 

Parenting and PTSD

Most parents suffer from PTSD unknowingly, and even those who know do not seek help. Why? They feel frightened of the pre-judgment by others or the guilt of not being good or devoted parents for complaining about the stresses of parenting.

However, you must know that you are not the only one. It is completely natural to feel drained, exhausted, and overwhelmed by parenting duties, especially if you have been dealing with it for a longer duration.

Other reasons for developing PTSD may include having to deal with parenting on your own such as:

  • being a single parent
  • parenting a difficult child
  • if you have a less involved or less supportive partner

 Sometimes, it can be a mixture of all of the above and stresses of personal and professional life that can trigger Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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What Can Cause PTSD While Parenting?

Here are some examples of events that may cause mild to severe PTSD in a parent.

  • A prolonged colic episode of a baby can lead to the activation of flight or fight syndrome. However, this kind of event can trigger PTSD due to sleep deprivation for days.
  • Prolonged or painful labor and birth
  • Postpartum Depression (PPD) and other physical complication
  • Miscarriages or stillbirths
  • Separation from your children etc.
  • Experiencing traumatic labor, PPD, and other shocking events during parenting can also trigger PTSD if you had a history of child abuse in any form.
  • If your children suffer from any chronic or life-threatening conditions. The American Heart Association published a study that suggests that you are at risk of developing PTSD if your child suffers from a heart defect.
  • Any unexpected shock, medical conditions, and unexpected event (especially related to your children) may instantly trigger PTSD.

While not all parents are at risk of PTSD, knowing what may trigger it can help you safely navigate the parenting terrains.

In case you have safely recovered from PTSD in the past, you must be extra careful as a parent. Any prolonged or continuous event such as a baby crying, getting sick, or throwing tantrums can be a catalyst for your Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to resurface.

Plus, PTSD does not discriminate, so whether you are a father or mother, both are at risk of falling victim to it. While a mother may be vulnerable to PTSD after a traumatic labor or birthing experience, fathers can also suffer from PTSD due to the demanding nature of being a parent and provider.

Either way, you must be aware of any symptoms associated with the condition and not be afraid to reach others for support. You can speak to your partner, a family member, a friend, or a therapist to help you through this traumatic mental health issue.

 

Conclusion

A parent suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is not uncommon. Therefore, do not feel guilty for feeling down and low during parenting.

Parenting is a 24/7 job that you will be doing for the rest of your life after having a child. If it ever gets too much, it is ok to seek help, and there is nothing to be embarrassed about it. You are only human, and sometimes we all need a helping hand.

In case you feel that you have the symptoms of PTSD or have a history, feel free to speak to a doctor or a mental health expert such as a psychologist, therapist, or counselor for further advice.

 

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January 18th, 2022

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