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Mental Health

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

09/28/2007

Question:

Could you help me understand if my daughter-in-law may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Three years ago she tried to take her life with an overdose of pills. This happened around the same time of year in which she had experienced the death of a very close friend who was killed when struck by lightening when they were playing soccer. Each year around the same time similar occurrences happen with her.

Answer:

It must be difficult being aware of your daughter-in-law's pain.

It is imprudent for me to diagnose anyone with so little information and more importantly without seeing the patient. That said, PTSD is treatable. The key elements of PTSD are:

1. witnessing or being a participant in a significant traumatic event (accident, sexual assault, etc.)

2. flashbacks

3. hyperarousal

4. avoidance

Patients with PTSD also commonly have other psychiatric disorders, such as a mood disorder or substance issue. I suggest that you talk with your daughter-in-law about your concerns and, if she has not had a psychiatric assessment, getting one. Her history of suicide attempt suggests that she has a mood disorder and is at risk for recurrence or at risk for suicide.

Again, if she is willing to do so, I highly recommend a psychiatric assessment if not yet done. You probably should include your son in these discussions.

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Response by:

Stephen F Pariser, MD Stephen F Pariser, MD
Faculty Emeritus
Professor of Psychiatry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University