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PTSD Survivors Speak: Research on How PTSD Affects the Family

Posted Feb 24 2010 12:00am

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010 • •

erik-gustafson It seems to me the next wave in PTSD treatment will come from the students in universities today. They’re the ones who have the benefit of traditional trauma psychology, and who are now focusing so much on researching the important issues of identity, meaning and other spiritually related topics that deal with post-traumatic symptoms and stress. It’s my pleasure then, to bring you opportunities to help these researchers gather information that can possibly help the entire survivor community find peace.

My name is Erik Gustafson and I am PhD student at Capella University. I am looking for family’s to volunteer for face-to-face interviews for my dissertation titled “THE EXPERIENCE OF LIVING IN A FAMILY IN WHICH A PARENT HAS BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH PTSD”. I also served in the Air Force for 20 years and recently retired from active duty.The purpose of this research is twofold:

(1) to examine the experience of living in a family in which a parent has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

(2) to specifically focus on the question of the potential loss of existential meaning and its effect for returning veterans and that of their family members.

As I said, I am looking for families to volunteer to be interviewed about what it’s like to live in a home where a parent has PTSD.

Southwick, Gilmartin, McDonough, and Morriessy (2006) report that many veterans with PTSD live with a profound sense of doubt about the meaning of a life with frequent recurrent thoughts often dominated by suffering, guilt, and death. There is existing research to indicate that family systems are impacted by PTSD and that a family member’s sense of self would likewise be affected through living with a PTSD diagnosed member.

Carlson and Ruzek (2008) have shown that living in a family where one person has PTSD often leads to family distress and secondary traumatization. In this respect depression, worry, anger, and addictive behaviors are all indirectly associated with existential issues that Victor Frankl (1980) originally identified as an “existential vacuum” or a sense of meaninglessness and lack of purpose in one’s life. It is this phenomena that my research intends to look at in depth.

My hope is that this research will find ways to help the entire family heal from PTSD and continue to reach their maximum potential by discovering meaning and purpose in their lives.

The basic criteria I am focusing on are families who have 1) a parent with combat related PTSD and 2) a family consisting of a partner and at least one child over age 10 living in the home.

If you fit these criteria and want to help, I would very much appreciate hearing your stories!

If you live within driving distance from Des Moines, Iowa, or can participate via Skype and would like to learn more about volunteering in this research, or have any questions whatsoever please contact me at balitiger@yahoo.com .

Thank you.

Erik Gustafson lives in Story City, Iowa where he is a program supervisor at a non-profit organization working with families who love someone with a brain injury or other intellectual disabilities. Prior to that, he served in the Air Force and retired at the rank of Master Sergeant. Erik is married with two daughters. His philosophy to life centers on meaning. He believes that meaning is what you treasure, your treasure is what cuddles your heart, and your heart is your spiritual connection with everyone. Seek meaning everywhere…

Opinions expressed are solely those of the author. To contribute to ‘Survivors Speak’ contact Michele .

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