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Post-traumatic stress disorder in combat soldiers is receiving greater attention and wider societal recognition. Now doctors and researchers are trying to do the same for a group that has similar symptoms: parents of children with life-threatening medical conditions.

Medically traumatic stress is a growing area of research in the field of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. For parents, a child’s single medical event or an ongoing medical condition—such as cancer, severe injuries, Type 1 diabetes, epilepsy, or other neurological disorders—can cause post-traumatic stress. Symptoms may include reliving the experience, avoiding reminders of the event or condition, feeling numb or detached from others, anxiety, difficulty concentrating and being constantly on the lookout for danger.

Studies have found in cases of children with life-threatening illness and conditions, “rates of PTSD are at least as high among parents as kids,” says Nancy Kassam-Adams, director of the Center for Pediatric Traumatic Stress at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Even so, when it comes to identifying and treating PTSD, “parents are often an afterthought,” she says.

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1 Comment

  1. What about adult “children” of ill parents? What about those adult offspring dealing with combinations of, say, Alzheimer’s and diagnosed narcissistic personality disorders …?


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