PTSD in Mothers

Many women demonstrate symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following the disclosure of their children's sexual abuse, particularly if the perpetrator was the spouse or intimate partner. These symptoms can continue for weeks, months, or even years. PTSD is the term used to capture the picture of symptoms that victims show following a traumatic event that is outside the normal range of experience. Originally used to describe combat victims, the trauma of sexual abuse parallels this type of trauma. Fear, threat, and injury are components of the experience. 

Victims of child sexual abuse may develop the symptoms of PTSD. Not all victims do, however, Whether someone develops PTSD depends on a number factors such as:
  • The individual's coping skills prior to the trauma
  • The individual's resilience or ability to bounce back following the trauma
  • The opportunity the person has to process emotions following the trauma
  • The support available to the person following the trauma
  • The ability to use positive coping resources following the trauma
  • Other factors specific to the type of trauma and the level of helplessness

Mothers may demonstrate the following symptoms of PTSD. They may:

  • Reexperience the event of disclosure including physical and emotional reactions
  • Experience intrusive thoughts that interfere with thought process during the day
  • Experience flashbacks that feel like the experience is reoccurring
  • Experience nightmares during the night
  • Shut down emotionally and feel detached
  • Be unable to think clearly
  • Be uninterested in activity
  • Be hypervigilant, constantly on guard, having difficulty going to sleep
  • Be unable to relax
  • Have difficulty concentrating
  • Experience anxiety, depression , and sleep disorders
  • Be unable to maintain positive, healthy relationships

Awareness of symptoms is key to reducing them. The practice of mindfulness  allows mothers to maintain awareness of their presence. Practicing skills to manage symptoms reduces distress. Counseling provides an opportunity to process the feelings and gain insight to the internal process. Group therapy is effective as mothers gain support from the group. 


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