What is PTSD?

PTSD is an anxiety disorder affecting people who have been exposed to, or have witnessed, intense and violent events.

PTSD in briefundefined

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is an anxiety disorder. For instance, it affects one third of soldiers who have been in combat. Also, one third of all refugee families are affected by PTSD. PTSD can appear if you have witnessed or have been a part of life-threatening events like acts of war, assaults, severe accidents or robbery. PTSD can also appear as a result of neglect, for instance, violence in the family or lack of safety and love. All in all, situations related to anxiety, insecurity and often also helplessness. When you experience PTSD, you relive the anxiety-causing situation again and again and your body reacts in the same way it did when you experienced the actual situation. Many people with PTSD try to avoid talking about it and avoid people, places and thoughts that remind them of the situation. Many people with PTSD also feel a sense of guilt and torment themselves by speculating how they could have acted differently. Likewise people suffering from PTSD can experience a sense of indifference, sleeping problems, nightmares, a constant feeling of insecurity, a need for isolation, increased suspicion towards other people, eruptions of anger, temporary memory loss and physical pain. Some adults succeed in managing their job well but relive the traumatic experiences when they are alone at night. Often though, PTSD will affect both your work and your family life.

This is what it can be like to have a parent with PTSD

2 to 5 pupils in every class have a parent who is affected by depression, anxiety or some other kind of mental illness. Children of parents with PTSD can be secondarily traumatised. Children are normally very good at sensing how their parents are doing. Children of parents with PTSD are in a state of alert themselves and can get anxious when a parent feels anxious. The children can show the same symptoms as the adults. They can suffer from temporary memory loss and concentration difficulties. They can experience sleeping problems and develop severe anxiety. The adult often behaves differently after experiencing trauma, and he or she may for instance yell more, or be more alert and challenging than before. This can affect the child and make him or her feel insecure and unsure of the adult’s behaviour. The child can react by acting inappropriately. He or she can appear unfocused, violent and incomprehensible. The children around them can react by showing more sensitivity than normally. Often the child who is affected does not understand what is going on. This is why it is important to look ’beyond’ the child’s behaviour.

All children have some sort of antenna that registers the adult’s behaviour. Children often sense a lot more than the adults think. When children don’t get the help they need to understand their feelings, they will invent their own way of understanding. Children look for meaning! 

Shawk grew up in a family where both his parents suffered from PTSD. Watch the film (in Danish) and listen to Shawk talk about his childhood. In the film, nurse Sisi Buch also talks about families affected by PTSD. 


Hejrevej 43 | 2400 København NV | 3929 3909 | pf@psykiatrifonden.dk | CVR 1917 4883