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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder During the Holidays

By Eileen Bailey

People suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may have a more difficult time during the holidays for any number of reasons:


  • PTSD sufferers can suffer setbacks at the anniversary or during the season the anniversary of the traumatic event occurred. For example, if someone has PTSD because of being molested by a family member during the holidays, the holiday season may bring back the memories and make it difficult to relax and enjoy the holiday. If a veteran remembers spending a horrible holiday seeing other members of their unit killed, the holiday season may be difficult to make it through. Sometimes, those suffering from PTSD do not understand why or cannot explain why they are irritable or cannot enjoy the holidays. Family members try to make the holiday special and may end up feeling angry instead when the person with PTSD is not willing or able to participate in holiday events.


  • Holidays and family functions can make the PTSD sufferer feel like an outsider. They may feel uncomfortable joining in the celebration and, as a result, end up feeling alone and isolated. Although family members may try to include the person with PTSD, if the event brings back memories or makes him or her uncomfortable, being pushed into participating can make the feelings of isolation even more uncomfortable.


  • PTSD sufferers may have survivor guilt. The traumatic event that caused the PTSD may be one in which other people perished. This may create guilt and cause them to wonder why he or she survived and others did not. Holidays may increase these feelings. Family members, with good intentions, can create even more guilt by either ignoring the situation or calling attention to it. The survivor must be able to grieve in his or her own way and family members must be respectful of that grief.


  • Large crowds or events with alcohol can be problems for people with PTSD. He or she may feel unsafe in places with many people or large crowds. Trips to the mall or large family gatherings may bring about such uncomfortable feelings the sufferer may instead avoid all situations that involve crowds. People with PTSD have a larger chance than the general public of having problems with alcohol. Holiday parties often include alcoholic beverages and this may be a big problem, especially if triggers are around.
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