There has been more and more talk about the possibility of NICU moms and dad needing screening for PTSD and not just Depression. This issue came to life when watching Kate, Toby and baby Jack in their first days together. Just like veterans deal with unresolved parts of their experience in war the same is true of NICU parents.
Very generally speaking, the symptoms that must be present in order to be diagnosed with PTSD are:
- Experiencing, witnessing, being close to some who has experienced, or hearing repeatedly about a fatal, near fatal or sexually violating event.
- You some type of intrusive thoughts whether that be flashbacks or nightmares or something similar
- You avoid thoughts, feelings, people, or places connected to the event
- You experienced pervasive negative emotions surrounding the event
- You are more easily bothered, startled, and distracted
It is normal to have these symptoms directly after a traumatic event but if they last for more than one month this may be a sign that you are struggling with PTSD. Symptoms will also impact several different areas of life such as family, work, social etc.
Spending time in the NICU, parents are faced with a near death experience daily. The doctor tells Kate and Rebecca about tapping the bottom of baby Jack’s foot if he seems to stop breathing. The machines keeping him alive are a constant reminder that he is not a “normal baby”. Kate is on edge and irritable in response to Rebecca trying to help. Toby sits in the waiting room thinking about how tiny and helpless Jack is. All these responses are proof that this traumatic event is impacting the family deeply, and rightfully so! Our brains are able to file normal, everyday experiences away neatly but we often have trouble knowing how to process trauma. We get stuck on why the trauma is happening, what we could have done to stop it, and what this means about the world now that it’s happened. These thoughts are very difficult to work through without help. Through therapy like Cognitive Processing Therapy it is possible to break down these thoughts and correct the stuck points that are making the impacts of trauma worse.
Below is an article about NICU parents and their experience with PTSD.