How Does PTSD Affect Families?

PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) affects families in a very direct way. Research of the families of Vietnam veterans with PTSD reveals a higher incidence of marital problems, family violence, distress, and behavioral problems in children.

Why PTSD Affects Families in Such a Negative Way

A person who suffers from PTSD struggles with showing emotions, and they harbor a sense of detachment from others. Often, the numbness that someone with PTSD experiences translates to avoidance and an overall dissatisfaction with the role of parenting. The dark, emotional mix can lead to problems in personal relationships with spouses and family members and problems with children not behaving as they should.

Family members of people who suffer from PTSD experience a broad range of emotions and other detrimental side effects. Here are some examples.


Understandably, when a family member has PTSD, a veil of pain and loss can envelop the entire group. Supporting a veteran with PTSD can put a strain on relationships as the family attempt to help their loved one. The veteran’s sadness can be felt throughout the family in certain situations.


It can help a person suffering from PTSD to know that their family supports them. Sometimes, however, the best of sympathetic intentions goes bad when family members handle the person like they are permanently disabled.


Just as the person with PTSD avoids anything that might bring back traumatic memories, their family members may also begin to avoid those same things. Similarly, they can also begin to develop a fear of the PTSD’s reactions to potential triggers.

A healthy approach to this consequence of PTSD is for the person to try venturing out for occasional social activities. For those events in which they do not care to engage, they can encourage family members to participate without them. Still, it is not uncommon for at least some family members to stay behind out of fear of leaving the person home alone.

Feelings of Negativity

Sometimes the family members no longer recognize the new personality and may feel they have lost someone whom they loved dearly. The more that the family can understand PTSD, the more easily they can move through this period of uncertainty.

Anger and Guilt

Family members feel guilty when they feel unable to make any difference in their loved one’s happiness. At the same time, when the person turns to drugs or alcohol to alleviate their pain, or their emotional lows keep them from holding down a job, family members’ guilt can easily shift to anger. Sometimes just having to face the person’s constant irritability wears thin and leads to feelings of resentment. Nobody should assume blame for these feelings. They are natural, given the circumstances.

Health Problems

Physical health quickly falls prey to all the low emotions surrounding a family member’s PTSD. Any bad habits—smoking, drinking, drug abuse—become amplified, sometimes to dangerous extremes. New illnesses, too, can show up as extensions of the stress and anxiety that accompany having to cope with a seemingly hopeless situation.

Moving Forward

It is important for family members to realize they are neither the cause of nor the solution to their loved one’s PTSD. They need to support their loved one, but they also must pay careful attention to their own health and happiness. Counseling, especially for spouses and children, may play a key role in better balancing the needs of the person with PTSD and the family member.

The following tips can help family members of someone living with PTSD move forward through this painful time in a healthy manner:

  • Learn about PTSD. The more you know, the better you can understand and relate to your family member who is going through it.
  • Accompany your family member on doctor visits, just for emotional support, or to help record information about medicine, therapy, etc.
  • Be open to listening and be okay with your family member not wanting to talk.
  • Plan activities for the family.
  • Organize physical activities, even as simple as walking or bicycling. These are good for the mind and body.
  • Develop a support system.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers many resources to help veterans suffering with PTSD, as well as how PTSD affects families. Use these helpful tools, and if you are a veteran suffering from PTSD related to your time in the service seek the veterans’ disability benefits to which you may be entitled.

A Veterans’ Disability Benefits Lawyer Can Help You Get Compensation for PTSD

A VA disability lawyer can help you understand how VA rates disabilities like PTSD. They can also file a claims appeal if VA denied your benefits or underrated your condition. Call (888) 392-5392 today for more information.