Do other caregivers suffer from PTSD symptoms?

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After a few months of moving Mom into assisted living, I'm having severe anxiety or panic attacks, nightmares and flashbacks. I can't sleep. Or maybe don't want to since the nightmares are so disturbing. I am not able to even take care of myselfseriously. I hate being out in public. I am seeking counseling. But so far it's like the therapist doesn't take me seriously.

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cr0105 -
It always amazes me when some one else asks the same question I've been turning over again and again in my own head!

I looked after my mom for almost six years. Thankfully, we didn't live together - things were bad enough as it was - especially the last two years.

My mom passed away the end of August. Mom was nearly 90 and her dementia had progressed to the point she didn't always know who I was, and she had pretty much stopped eating and speaking. It was an excruciating last couple of months. Honestly, it was a relief when mom finally let go - for her suffering and for me - at this point I was so rung out I didn't have any more to give - not to her and not to anyone else in my life.

So - I kinda thought I'd be feeling more like my old self by now - but nothing could be further from the truth.

A life long insomniac, its worse than ever - maybe two - three hours of sleep a night. Constant nightmares. My attention span is zip and I can't focus on anything. My smoking is at an all time high and my threshold for stress - an all time low. It seems if I'm not angry, I'm anxious - but I can't quite ever put my finger on what I'm worrying about or why I'm pissed off.

So, I thought "Post Traumatic Stress"? But then thought "No" and have been telling myself to stop being a drama queen and to get over it!

I haven't considered therapy. My only experience with that was a giant joke of a marriage counselor that soured me on taking that route.

So, I'll be watching for your posts to see how you are getting along and hopefully you can share ideas on what's helping you.

Sorry- I know my reply probably wasn't any help. But I did want you to know that you're not alone - I'm feeling for you, sister!
Many. many caregivers experience some mental health issues -- depression, anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD ... a range of reactions.

Give the therapist a couple more sessions and if you still don't feel you are being taken seriously, find another therapist. Seriously, not every counselor is a good fit for every client. It is not a failure on your part or theirs to need to switch therapists.

I'm so glad you are in counseling. This is a difficult journey. We deserve all the support we can get ... even if we have to pay for it. :-)
Best therapist I ever saw was a former police dept crisis counselor. PTSD.? Absolutely possible. Her practice was full of adult children of alcoholics, domestic abuse and molestation survivors, and caregivers of ailing parents and adolescents. In fact she was the first person who didn't judge me for feelings or stress. Your feelings are yours, and you need help finding a way to make it through.
I have what I call chronic stress disorder. My first thought is to blame myself for not being upbeat and productive. Then I look at how things are in my world and know I am probably being normal. I don't think that humans were built to handle this type of stress for too long.

cr0105, I wondered what you felt when you were moving your mother into AL. Was it particularly traumatic for you? Do you feel like something is undone and hanging over your head? Maybe if you write about it, people here will relate to what you're feeling. I have a feeling you are probably not alone.
Dear cr0105,

I'm so sorry to hear how are you feeling. Its not easy. Moving your mom to assisted living was a big change. It takes time to accept this new phase in your mom's life and yours as well.

Please be kind and gentle with yourself. And as Jeanne said if this therapist does not feel right, please don't hesitate to find a new one. There are good ones out there. Maybe consider joining a support group as well. Thinking of you.
cr0105, time to change therapist. I did, and now I have a talk therapist who is around my age, and who in the past had to deal with an elderly parent. So when she says "I know what you are going through", she really does :)

Even though I fought the thought of taking calming pills and antidepressants, I finally had to give it a try. I take the very lowest dosage possibly, and started out cutting those dosages in half with permission from my primary doctor.

I still get panic attacks driving, and I have to keep telling myself I cannot correct 7 years of driving panic in just a few months, it's going to take awhile.

I still won't go to the movies or dine out someplace that takes a lot of time to have the meal placed in front of me. Again it was 7 years of worrying my cellphone would ring in the middle of the movie or dinner saying either Mom or Dad had fallen, please come to the house.

My parents have since passed, but the panic memory is still there, but getting better :)
Are you taking any meds? My husband started having really vivid and disturbing dreams a couple of years ago. In talking to his doc, he discovered that it was a side effect of a drug he'd be taking for a while.

Take care of yourself; I've been blessed with some good therapists. If you are not feeling as though you're being taken seriously, please tell the therapist that. The most useful thing in therapy is to say exactly how you are feeling.

If you tell her/him this and they become defensive, you've got a poorly trained therapist. If they want to talk about what is leading to your feeling that way, bingo. Still, don't stay if you're not comfortable.

Therapy is hard work and usually leads to us finding out that there things we need to change about us. That can hurt. And you never get there if you haven't developed a trusting relationship with the other person in the room.
Hello. Thought I would share a bit of good news..the therapist is helping. Part of the reason is that I am taking charge of the discussions! I had never done that before. If he starts talking about stuff I already know or going in a direction I'm not ready for like moving on to the next topic he thinks we should discuss, I just flat out interrupt him. That's not like me. But I feel like I need to make good use of the time!
Two things he shared with me that have really helped:
1. If I cannot handle the emotions right now, try to set it aside "until later" & do just one thing that helps my physical body. It can be eating a healthier choice of meals *or* going for a walk...whatever. But keeping that as my "out" does double duty- helps me focus on something else & doing something good for me makes me like myself better.
2. He told me when I feel overwhelmed by stress, go through the things that are bothering me and categorize them into 3 groups by asking- is this... A) a problem *or* b) a predicament *or* c) a lost cause. This has been helpful because it gets me into an action mode of thinking...instead of all these thoughts running through my mind haphazardly.
Hope that's helpful to someone else too.
My family doctor misdiagnosed me with ptsd and put me on mirtzapine for it. After really bad nightmares and side effects he sent me to a therapist who put me on correct medication for depression. If you get diagnosed with it, based on my experience with the drugs, I would get a second opinion on it.
Over the years I have had very helpful counseling and not so good counseling. I've never had a damaging experience. Rainmom, I am so sorry you did. There really are effective and compassionate counselors out there!

Sometimes it takes a few sessions for the therapist and client to get in sync. Unless it is dreadful, I'd try more than one session before leaving. But it is absolutely acceptable to leave when it isn't a good fit, and find a better one.

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