Secondary PTS or Secondary Post Traumatic Stress is a term used more freely these days. But, what is it? Studies have proven those who live with those with PTSD – for example, caregivers – can mirror certain symptoms. These include heightened anxiety, nonspecific fears, mood swings, and poor sleep and insomnia to name a few. You may be so concerned with possible triggers such as crowds, loud noises, or strangers, that your protective mode becomes a way of life. Only a medical professional can give you definitive answers, but it’s been documented those working with, living with, and hearing and absorbing traumatic stories can experience secondary PTS.
You may feel as though you’re “walking on eggshells” and reflecting your family member’s symptoms. While it may not be in the diagnostic manual – yet – clinicians are seeing secondary symptoms in spouses, family members and even children. If your family member shows hypervigilance, anger outbursts, insomnia, fear, mood swings and exhaustion, you may accumulate these reactions and exhibit them also. It’s understandable those living in the household may show these effects of the emotional and sometimes physical reactions of someone with PTSD. In children, this may be called Generational PTSD.
Sometimes, this is called Secondary Trauma, explaining the indirect exposure to the shared story or shared living with PTSD symptoms. Become more aware of your personal health, changing reactions to words or events, and your emotional health. These may extend to your physical health if you model chronic fatigue, poor eating, little exercise, and lack of energy. Isolation, anxiety, fears and depression can be a growing problem. If this sounds like you, or your family member, seek professional help to provide you help to be your best. Often, it’s a relief to know that your reactions are normal and there is help for personalized care and a better quality of life.