Can't Tell My Family I Have PTSD


New Here
I have complex PTSD because I watched my father physically and emotionally abuse my mother, I spent all of my childhood listening to unpredictable loud and violent fights break out, and because my mother did some minor physical abuse towards me and emotionally abused me (including blaming me for her suicide attempt). The physical abuse towards me stopped when I was in my teens and the abuse between my parents is only verbal now. My relationship with my father has improved a little bit. My parents have been through trauma in their lives too and, I'm not forgiving their behavior, but I understand that they went through a lot of stress when they were raising us. And my mom did provide a lot of love towards me and my siblings when we were growing up too. My dad is trying harder at being a father now and overall I feel like we all love each other.

However, I was just diagnosed with complex PTSD a couple months ago. I believe I have had this condition since my teenage years, but it didn't hit full force until I moved out of our house and was no longer in survival mode and just crashed. My avoidant and protective behaviors and my depression have slowly worsened. PTSD has impacted my daily life since I was 19, but now it is more obvious to outsiders. It is such a huge part of my life that I now feel guilty that my parents don't know about it. I visit my parents at home, but if we were ever to go out in public together, they would notice or get upset with me for 'not acting normal'.

I don't know if I should just let this guilt go or brave telling my parents. They were the ones who caused my PTSD and I don't even know what it must feel like for a parent to be told that they gave their a child a serious mental illness. My mom is also very sensitive and tends to make things about her and then send toxic messages via email and family group chat about how she gave up everything for her children and we're ungrateful.



Really tough. I often wonder if I should tell my parents about what happened to me, and the consequences of the (lack of) parenting. But .....

What response do you want?
Do you think you will get that?
What response do you think you will get?
How will you manage that?

Once you tell: it's out there.
And you'll have to manage the consequences.
It's that that has made me say: no I can't tell them.


You might tell them you have PTSD, leaving out the C. That way they can be aware of the mental illness. If it is important for them to know, and I can see why it would, just leave out the reason. I know from my experience that my mom attacks if she thinks that I think she caused my CPTSD. Even if I make no mention of it. She feels guilty and takes it out on me. I'm 62.

I would also wait until you are more stabilized before you start that conversation. You might get really hurt and that's not good when your symptoms are getting worse. Maybe write a letter and save it for when you are feeling better. That helps me.

Welcome to the forum. I hope to see you around the boards. Keep us posted on how it goes.


New Here
Hi, I'm new, signed up for exactly this topic.
I am also struggling with how/if/when to talk to family. So far I've been talking to people about having 'nervous system dysregulation', which avoids mentioning or implying the full reasons why I burnt out so badly. I also crashed hard after being in survival mode too long...

I've found polyvagal theory useful for language about what is going on that doesn't imply any blame anywhere, it's just your body's survival instincts doing what they evolved to do, and that natural process can get out of whack via number of different routes (early trauma, shock trauma, medical mishap, long term stress accumulation) so it makes it easier to be vague. Overwhelm and freeze state are kind of interchangeable with people who don't really want to know.

My family can barely talk about feelings let alone mental health so it seems best to stick to a term like 'dysregulation' that seems impersonal, medical and contained to my own self, while those in the know might guess it's bigger than that...

I'm still healing, finding inner safety so I can work on trying to change many deep patterns. But, right now even talking to family who still hold similar negative patterns seems risky. Ideally it's something to try later when I'm in a better place internally. It's hard because I rely on them somewhat to live. They want to know only enough of what's going on so they can berate me or have something new to tell their friends. It's easy to feel obliged to respond haphazardly under stress.
I am afraid it would freak my mum out too if I ever used the word trauma or even mention issues with my childhood, and I have a dread fear of making her angry, due to early programming in my nervous system. Also I don't want to give her any ammo. It feels like a current day threat that impinges on what I can share with friends or community that my family are part of, and I currently live within. So finding safe people to practice hanging out like a normal person means I have to go outside the community, starting over from scratch trying to meet people, when I barely go out, and that may lead to more questions about 'why them and not us?'. I feel like there must be way to give my family some minimal interaction to satisfy them without spinning myself out, but maybe there isn't.

So I don't know if any of this is helpful or inadvisable when it gets down to it... I'm pretty confused too.


I'm sorry to hear about this. I really like @DharmaGirl's suggestion of telling them you have PTSD but not telling them the reason. There's no way to know how they will respond but this seems to minimize the risk. Sending you strength.