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Secondary Ptsd

Discussion in 'Discussion' started by ktmarie71, May 6, 2011.

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  1. ktmarie71

    ktmarie71 Active Member

    I have recently come across several scholarly articles coming out of Bosnia. The most recent I read was about Secondary PTSD which is still not recognized here in the States. I have also used my college's database and found more articles coming out of that region on a theraputic techniques that are being used in large groups and with children.
    There are several Military PTSD sites on FB that have articles and links that you might find helpful. Family of a veteran comes to mind; which is where I found the link for Secondary PTSD. Hope that helps a little.
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  3. anthony

    anthony I'm Not complicated.

    Secondary PTSD is PTSD... and it is recognized and diagnosed in the USA as PTSD.

    The term "secondary PTSD" refers to another person getting PTSD due to being abused primarily, whether emotionally or physically or both, by someone with PTSD. It is common in spouses of veterans.

    The person is diagnosed with PTSD because they endure trauma, being the emotion or physical or both types of Abuse, usually for an extended period of time. A simple explanation of secondary PTSD is typically domestic violence, which fits the criterion for a PTSD diagnosis.
    goingonhope likes this.
  4. ktmarie71

    ktmarie71 Active Member

    I really hate to be contrary on this issue; however, secondary PTSD is not about domestic violence. Domestic violence can be a factor affecting people with secondary PTSD and perhaps in those cases you would be right about it being simply PTSD but that is not what I am refering to. Secondary PTSD is not recognized in the States.
  5. anthony

    anthony I'm Not complicated.

    I think that statement was pretty clear what it is... compared to only the one example you chose to respond too.

    What do you believe secondary PTSD to be Ktmarie? Do you think there is a diagnosis for it? What makes you state it is not recognized in America?
  6. ktmarie71

    ktmarie71 Active Member

    Secondary PTSD is not recognized bythe Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders for the United States. In fact when you go the department of veterans affairs and department of defense websites and read the material produced by them you will not find the term "Secondary PTSD" ever mentioned. They talk about stressors for family members and even suggest eating well and exercising but do not recognize it as real mental health issue.
    Sometimes There is talk about Secondary PTSD amoung counselors and mental health workers but once again it is not recognized as disorder and cannot be offically diganosed as such. They can say you have Depression, or Anxiety due to the circumstances in which you live or work.
    What I am trying to respectfully say about Secondary PTSD is that it is not neccessary to have physical abuse attached the situation. For instance a family member/carer may begin to exhibit PTSD symptoms such as hypervigilance and hyperarousal due to the persistant stress of trying to avoid triggers that cause PTSD behaviors in the person they care for.
    Avoidance and isolation can occure due to "protecting" their loved ones with PTSD. Lack of sleep and anxiety can become a problem because of helplessness and confusion about what sets the person with PTSD off. Secondary PTSD behaviors can mirror PTSD behaviors, because in a sense the carer has begun to think more like the person they care for and to see the world through the PTSD lens.
    This is in no way implying that people with PTSD are causing trauma or giving PTSD to people they love, but it does suggest that carers are in a particularly stressful situation in which it is possible to develope psychological issues that stem from care taking their loved ones with PTSD.
    I have come to understand that PTSD and Secondary PTSD are not the same thing and it does not have to involve domestic violence. I know for sure it is not something you can get a diagnosis for in the States. People with Secondary PTSD are referred to counselors for depression and anxiety; not for Secondary PTSD.
    No disrespect is intended with this post. I hope you wont take it that way.
  7. anthony

    anthony I'm Not complicated.

    Correct. Secondary PTSD is a term only, and it is only used when a person obtains PTSD due to being abused by a PTSD sufferer, which is "usually" only prevalent in relationships, aka: domestic violence situations. That is the only general use of the term.

    Correct.... because if you have depression or anxiety due to living with a PTSD sufferer, then you do not have secondary PTSD, you have anxiety and depression. There will likely never be any such diagnosis as secondary PTSD, because it is the PTSD diagnosis itself that is given to those who suffer TRUE secondary PTSD. The term is often flung around to those who have depression or anxiety from relationships with an actual PTSD sufferer.

    Yes, but even that is not secondary PTSD. Spouses and family can absolutely get symptoms, but they are just that... symptoms, they are not secondary PTSD. Whatever information you have read on the term, is either wrong or you have confused what it is Marie.

    For the most part you are absolutely correct here, which I am agreeing with you at each point. I think what you are confused about is where secondary PTSD is called vs. a singular diagnosis due to living with someone with PTSD, as you stated in the below quote...

    PTSD and secondary PTSD actually are the same thing, it is once again the source of what you are reading has changed the original facts on what secondary PTSD actually is.

    Secondary PTSD is: A person who now has symptoms and trauma that meet the actual PTSD diagnosis, due to living with someone with PTSD, who initially obtained their diagnosis from a first-line traumatic event.

    Here is the confusion I believe... just because a spouse or family member of someone with PTSD obtains some symptoms due to the abusive nature of the person with PTSD, DOES NOT mean that person has secondary PTSD. That is the confusion I believe you have perceived about what it is.

    Most people who actually fit a diagnosis of PTSD due to obtaining it second hand, which is how the term was coined to begin with, being Secondary PTSD, live a life of constant abuse for the most part. If you have lived in such an environment, then you understand. There have been many children of PTSD sufferers who later in life are diagnosed with PTSD due to the abuse they encountered from their parent due to that parents PTSD, whether it be emotional or physical or both... this is when the term is stated, they would have secondary PTSD, meaning purely; they got their PTSD from a recognised criterion A traumatic event, being the abuse endured from a person with PTSD over a period of time... and are diagnosed with actual PTSD, but their trauma type can be referred to as secondary PTSD.

    You would be surprised actually how many complex trauma sufferers actually have their PTSD diagnosis due to secondary PTSD trauma, usually the parent undiagnosed though.... who have it without childhood sexual abuse, just purely since they where born, one parent or both emotionally and physically abused them their entire childhood, resulting in PTSD diagnosis.... but that is called, secondary PTSD. If they also sexually abused them, then secondary PTSD term is useless, because there is now a first-line traumatic event present by itself, being the sexual abuse.

    For the most part you are correct.... but I think you are falling into the category that some do off watering down the term secondary PTSD and applying it to anyone who is a partner or family member who has one or two symptoms of PTSD.... which is not when the term should be used. The term should only EVER be used to depict the type of trauma... that's all the term means, its not a diagnosis, its an explanation of type of trauma, just like, Combat PTSD is.... also not a diagnosis, but the moment it is stated, any physician immediately knows what they got PTSD from and the associated problems the person will be having, usually, alcohol, anger, etc... secondary PTSD is exactly the same... it depicts a type of trauma ONLY that has given a PTSD diagnosis.

    Again... many Vietnam veteran children have been diagnosed with PTSD due to secondary PTSD being the overall explanation of the type of trauma. You could just say... they have been emotionally and/or physically abused. Same thing...
    Anna and Junebug like this.
  8. anthony

    anthony I'm Not complicated.

    I did some further reading on this, and found the exact official terminology where people are getting confused.

    Secondary Traumatization is the official term used which depicts being traumatized by already traumatized individuals. Secondary PTSD is purely a term used to describe as outlined above already, being; the person has now met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD and been diagnosed with PTSD, due to being abused to that level of severity by a person who has PTSD, which is usually a spouse or family member (parent).

    There has never been a diagnosis of Secondary PTSD or Secondary Traumatization, which some people tend to write online in their misinformed blogging that they exist in some countries, not others. Total nonsense... there is no diagnosis for it under the DSM IV TR or ICD.

    There is however going to be a diagnosis for secondary traumatization, where people have some symptoms, but maybe not all to meet PTSD itself... but the diagnostic criteria for the new disorders have not yet been released and it will not be called secondary traumatization, it will simply be more along the lines of trauma / stressor not otherwise specified, which will fall under the new trauma / stressor categorization for the DSM 5 which PTSD now resides under.
    Anna likes this.
  9. Nicolette

    Nicolette ♡ Supporter Admin ♡
    Supporter Admin

    My two cents worth - not medically or diagnostically related is that the word "secondary" is what could be misunderstood.

    To me Secondary PTSD would be getting abused by a second person who has PTSD to a point of the first person then ending up with PTSD.

    That being said, I could also see how the diagnosis of Secondary PTSD could be misconstrued/interpreted. Example: it could be deemed that someone (with a history of being abused, traumatized etc) who is in a relationship with a second person who has PTSD is the catalyst to the first person being "pushed over the edge" dealing with the second person's PTSD symptoms. This situation causing the first person, who had been traumised by events in their past but never developed PTSD, to actually develop PTSD. While the second person may have been the straw which broke the camel's back, and they played a part in adding to the trauma in a secondary nature, they were not in fact directly responsible for the first person developing PTSD.

    Also, I agree that having symptoms doesn't not necessary allude to having the illness and a diagnosis..... if anything a 'supporter' may end up with PTS or just reflect/project the negative behaviors being lived with.
    Anna likes this.
  10. Simply Simon

    Simply Simon Fathom the Power

    I'm not well read on the subject, but my understanding was sort of alluded to by Anthony.
    It seems that Secondary PTSD is just like Combat PTSD or--less recognizably, Complex PTSD--in that it has a name that just further distinguishes its trauma. I could say I have Child Sexual Abuse and Re-Traumatization Through Lots of Other Sexual, Emotional, and Physical Abuse PTSD, but it would still be PTSD. And PTSD unrolled is... Post-traumatic stress disorder. Meaning that it comes after a trauma, witnessed or directly experienced. I do not see how adopting certain symptoms = traumatic.
    anthony and Nicolette like this.
  11. ktmarie71

    ktmarie71 Active Member

    I am stunned that this has recieved so much attention. I mentioned secondary PTSD in passing on another subject and had no desire to actually get into a debate about it.
    I have PTSD from some rather horrific events occuring in childhood and my husband has PTSD from surviving multiple ambushes and combat in Iraq. I have no means by which to determin if anything I experience is based on my own PTSD or his and I dont think it matters much. When you are in pain, or scared ,or simply so stressed out you think you are going to lose your mind, you stop caring about all that.
    One thing I do really care about, is to make it clear (to anyone who cares) that physical abuse is not always part of the struggles Caregivers have to deal with. I have spoken to women who become hypervigilant, startle easy and begin to numb out because of the stress of caring for their combat veterans. I have heard many people dismiss the severity of these stressors because the veteran isnt actually threatening the care giver. That is complete crap in my opinion.
    The everything changes when a care giver begins to see the world as full of triggers. I myself have become far more cautious about crowds and driving conditions, and am much more tuned in to the subtle changes my warrior exhibits; because, more than anything I want to keep him feeling safe and calm; it often comes down to being the only other person in the room who knows what is going on with him. I imagine all of this sees even more chaotic for people who have not experienced any trauma of their own.
    So we can have a tit for tat on terms, and wheather you believe this is an issue or not, and even get worked up about which countries acknowledge what, but the issue still remains the same; care givers to combat vets in particular, seem to have some significant correlations between their behaviors mirroring their loved one's PTSD and the expectations placed on them and the severity of the condition their loved ones came back in. That is the truth, and even if you copy most of this post and tear it apart word by word, it will still be true.
    I am glad that people are considering the validity of Secondary PTSD because if it is considered and addressed there is a possiblility that real help will be made available to carers that does not exist now. Even if some people believe its complete B.S. at least there is chance that some change may come of it. Care givers of combat veterans need counselors and doctors who understand the unique world in which the Military family functions and significant stressors involved in life after War.
    So, I am not open to being converted to believing that Secondary PTSD doesnt exist. I am rather cynical about all the nay-saying anyway, because it wasnt that long ago that PTSD was thought of as a "moral" issue and not a real diagnosis. I think it wont be long before we start to understand this issue better and it will seem as silly to deny it as people referring to "Shell shock" or "soldier's heart". Secondary PTSD is not just Depression, or Anxiety or any other minimizing term anyone wants to put on it.
  12. anthony

    anthony I'm Not complicated.

    KT, are you seriously reading my responses? Because if you are, then you would find I am agreeing with you about nearly everything you are saying, which you then respond defending yourself again... when I agree with you.

    Which leads me to the question, are you actually reading the responses?

    I believe I was quite clear about stating, emotional, physical and/or both, completely agreeing with you.
    Junebug likes this.
  13. Simply Simon

    Simply Simon Fathom the Power

    KT, I am not trying to be combative. I am going to attempt to break down how I am reading this whole thread. If you are willing to read my reply and break it down my understanding quotes to which you can respond, clarify, or correct, it may help both our understandings. If you are not interested in further discussion on this thread, okay. I am just confused and do not like to be confused to the point of really not being able to understand what someone is trying to communicate. I can't embrace or reject what I can't comprehend.

    My understanding is this.

    You want people to know that there are active studies supporting something that is currently not a diagnosis.

    The diagnosis is Secondary Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Secondary Post Traumatic Stress Disorder occurs when someone has PTSD and through that complication does something or many things to traumatize someone else, often manifesting as parents with PTSD who abuse their children or a spouse with PTSD who abuses his/her partner, therefore giving those victims PTSD. I understand your point here to be that Secondary PTSD occurs in more situations than these. I agree with you here. In fact, it is very possible that I have Secondary PTSD as I understand it as a term. I was abused throughout my childhood by my older brother, who was abused as a child by an older foster brother. If my brother were diagnosed with PTSD, I would have Secondary PTSD as a result of the trauma I suffered, and that abuse was likely a product of his trauma. I was re-traumatized through a sexually, physically, emotionally abusive BF who was severely physically and verbally abused as well as heavily neglected. If he were diagnosed with PTSD, same story: trauma begetting trauma. There is no reason why examples should be limited to merely parent/child abuse or domestic violence.

    You seem to be suggesting that one can develop PTSD through being with someone who has PTSD, getting Secondary PTSD. However, you have been diagnosed with PTSD from another experience? But your argument as I understand it is that you are developing new stressors because of your husband's PTSD. So, you have PTSD, which means you demonstrate the symptoms of PTSD, and your husband's behavior stresses you out. You seem to be saying that you are somehow embodying his symptoms, yet you have these symptoms yourself, and your husband's issues put you under stress, so would it not be normal for your symptoms to worsen because of the stress from your husband?

    I mean, my mother instilled a lot of fears in me that did nothing to help my hypervigilance. She just tried to equip me with knowledge for every situation so much that I was just realizing more possibilities for kidnapping, rape, or death. She was widening my imagination and so widening my symptom of hypervigilance, because there were so many more things that I was told to be afraid of. So, I was deathly afraid of things not necessarily related to my trauma, but they became relevant to me because it just set off more red flags.

    I have nightmares. I have nightmares of my trauma, things surrounding my trauma. I have flashbacks. I have intrusive thoughts surrounding my trauma. I regress. I write about my traumas in my trauma diary. You, too, have a trauma to look back on, to be affected by. This stress you're being put under by your husband... it isn't trauma. It's not traumatic. It's stressful. It's pressure. It's more heat under that brimming and boiling kettle that is our stress cup! I do not understand, however, how you would develop PTSD from this stress. Secondary Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is PTSD. You can't spell it without PTSD. And it is not a matter of someone else having PTSD. It is a matter of you having PTSD and the origin of that. Trauma is death or threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violation through witnessed or direct exposure.

    So, echoing Anthony, why did you post this article? I can understand why someone may choose to identify with the term if they happened to know that their PTSD came from someone with PTSD, but it still seems like the distinction between Combat PTSD and PTSD. It is what it is. Everyone got their trauma from individual experience. I identify with C-PTSD, yet the distinction really does nothing but specify the nature of my trauma. If someone identified with Secondary PTSD because they were traumatized by someone with PTSD, it would still be a matter of specifying their PTSD.

    I don't care if someone identifies as having Elven PTSD because their trauma occurred from an elf incident. But if you are inferring that PTSD is contagious, no direct or witnessed trauma involved, I certainly can't agree with you.

    Am I getting all this right or am I as muddled and puzzled as I feel?
  14. anthony

    anthony I'm Not complicated.

    If I could like that 50+ times, I would. Very articulate and well factually stated.
    safenow likes this.
  15. sea

    sea I'm a VIP

    I thought Secondary PTSD was what happened to caregivers who start to become hypervigilant, alert, sensitive, walk-on-eggshells, and have some symptoms that "mimic" PTSD when having to deal with the constant day in and day out of caring for someone who does have PTSD? But because they would not meet the requirements for PTSD (being in a life threatening situation, experiencing actual trauma), nor experience all of the symptoms of PTSD (flashbacks, dissociation, etc) it would be considered "Secondary PTSD" meaning it is a set of symptoms secondary to PTSD - due to proximity over a long period of time to someone with PTSD?

    Maybe a more appropriate name would be something like "Caregiver's Anxiety" or something. To me Secondary PTSD seems more related to caregivers (Supporters as they're called here) than it does to generational abuse, which is what I think y'all are talkin about here.

    I think KT is confused cause y'all are talkin about something completely different than what she's meanin. Like Anthony said, he agrees with her points, cause they're accurate points, but sayin Secondary "PTSD" is PTSD is ridiculous cause people with Secondary "PTSD" don't actually have most of the symptoms of PTSD. With generational abuse, though, being abused by someone with PTSD would automatically give the abused person PTSD, because those experiences are traumatic.

    Like Miss Sunshine said, being a caretaker isn't traumatic (If you aren't experiencing trauma), so it wouldn't be PTSD, because there ain't no trauma involved. But there is anxiety involved, and that anxiety directly stems from bein a caregiver - so "Anxiety" is not an accurate diagnosis either. It'd be, literally, "Caregiver's Anxiety"? Meaning an anxiety that is solely unique to those who care for sufferers of PTSD. It opens up a lot of new anxieties that stay permanent when dealing with sufferers, and maybe even people like their sufferer eventually?

    I don't know, I'm talkin' out of my ass here, and I guarantee you I don't know what I'm talkin about, just tryin to figure it out myself. Feel free to ignore me.
  16. ktmarie71

    ktmarie71 Active Member

    Maybe I am just all jumbled up about what people are saying. There is a lot here (very long posts) and actually I wasn't even intending to die on this hill. Forgive me.
  17. becvan

    becvan Queen of the Blunt!
    Premium Member

    Actually the term Secondary PTSD was orignially coined in reference to therapists who began exhibiting symptoms of PTSD after extensive therapy with patients of PTSD where they had listened to our trauma. Basically the therapists were getting traumatized listening to our trauma.

    Of course since then, the term is being applied to everyone for all sorts of things. It is not an actual diagnosis, and I would be suprised if it ever does become one.

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  18. brat17

    brat17 I'm a VIP

    Probably enough said but I have to ask for clarification.
    A carer can develop ptsd from the ongoing fear associated with the behavior of the person with ptsd? If the non ptsd witnesses behavior that they perceive as life threatening to self or other and over a significant period of time-they may be diagnosed with ptsd ? I believe the answer to be yes-it is still ptsd.

    Even within the accurate diagnosis, all ptsd is not the same in severity. Symptoms vary, how functional the individual is varies, as does progress/management.

    The same is true with depression. I have seen people with depression that are in much worse shape than my ptsd. Same with anxiety disorders, OCD, and other disorders. I am not minimizing the effects of ptsd in any way. There are those with much worse symptoms than I and those with less symptoms. Any of the diagnosis has a range of severity and the diagnosis is only part of it. The DSM provides for the GAF as well as the diagnosis.
    Abstract likes this.
  19. brat17

    brat17 I'm a VIP

    I thought that was compassion fatigue
  20. becvan

    becvan Queen of the Blunt!
    Premium Member

    LOL compassion fatigue is what one gets from the constant stress of caring for another person. Secondary PTSD was about be traumatized by listening to ones trauma in a theraputic setting. Of course that is just the origins of Secondary PTSD and not what we see it referred to today.

    Can all get very confusing can't it?
  21. brat17

    brat17 I'm a VIP

    Yes "caregivers" specifically professional caregivers such as mental health therapists but can include other professions. Might want to research that one
  22. herewego

    herewego New Member

    Hello, I am new here. I started researching secondary PTSD, and I came across this thread. My mother was sexually abused by her father and aunt as a child, and I feel like it affected me strongly in a secondary way, meaning that emotionally I feel I've been sexually violated, but to my knowledge I have not been sexually abused. Is this likely or possible? Would it be appropriate to share my experience here? I am confused and looking for answers or insight.
  23. anthony

    anthony I'm Not complicated.


    You do not have PTSD, as you have not been directly abused, from what you have said. What you explained is not secondary PTSD, it is called secondary traumatization.

    Your feelings are valid for whatever you feel under whatever circumstances you have, but have zero relevance for the term secondary PTSD.

    If you have family who have been diagnosed with PTSD, then you have the right to be here in a supporter / family capacity, and there is a supporter area/s designated. Having endured abuse does not mean a person has PTSD though.
    Anna likes this.
  24. ronin47

    ronin47 Well-Known Member

    Hm, interesting, kind of like second hand smoking in a way.
  25. herewego

    herewego New Member

    I guess I probably don't have PTSD, but I don't think secondary traumatization fits either, because I did not witness the abuse and I did not even know my mom had been abused until I was a teenager, but I have felt violated ever since I was a small child. I will look elsewhere for answers.
  26. brat17

    brat17 I'm a VIP

    Herewego, -please dont be discouraged. Living with someone who has been abused sure does come with its own set of affects. They may be reacting to things in a way that you might not understand .
    Have you talked to a therapist about this? That might be the place to start because self diagnosis is usually incorrect. If you are feeling as though you have been traumatized some how, I hope that you share this with a professional so that you can discover why while you are young and these feeling dont go on for decades.

    Be good to yourself and remember, there is a lot of information here that may help you to better understand things with mom.
    Abstract likes this.
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