Addiction doesn’t just affect those with a dangerous dependency on alcohol or drugs. Often, the experiences of those on the sidelines watching their loved ones spiral into the depths of addiction are even more raw and distressing than for the individual suffering from the problem.
Hollywood actress Hayden Panettiere has recently been discussing how, during the midst of her dependence on alcohol and opioids, she sent her daughter to Ukraine to live with her father, Wladimir Klitschko, in 2018.
She explains: ‘At the time the best thing I could do for my daughter was to make sure she was ok, and take care of myself, and make sure that I could be a good mom to her. So that sometimes means you have to let them go.’
Below, Martin Preston, founder of private rehab clinic Delamere, explains why those closest to those battling addiction often suffer themselves, as well as the signs to look out for that may reveal a loved one isn’t coping:
PTSD is defined as a psychiatric disorder that occurs when individuals have been exposed to a traumatic event, such as an overdose or intense medical emergency.
For the family members and partners of someone suffering from addiction, the stressful situations that occur due to their drug or alcohol abuse can lead to PTSD.
While they may be too embarrassed or ashamed to admit they are suffering during such a hard time for their loved ones, those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder will often greatly benefit from treatment, and recognising the problem is often the most difficult first step.
There are typically two types of trauma that can occur in the loved ones of those suffering, physical and emotional.
Involves physical shock, a near-life-ending event or an incident which involves watching a loved one expose themselves to unnecessary danger or consistently making highly stressful decisions.
Occurs in situations where a family member or loved one becomes emotionally unavailable, has a shift in personality and shows little to no return of affection. Due to the nature of addiction, they may also find themselves the victim of manipulation, dishonesty, theft or even assault at the hands of their loved ones.
While almost all family members, partners and close friends of the individual suffering from addiction will experience different levels of trauma during their loved one’s journey, there are certain signs that may indicate PTSD:
- Reliving a traumatic event over and over: Regularly experiencing nightmares, flashbacks, or lifelike memories.
- Avoiding any mentions or recollection of a traumatic event – Refusing to address, discuss or even acknowledge the fact that an event happened, essentially burying it down in a bid to forget.
- Negative feelings about themselves or the wider world – The inability to feel any joy in things that made you happy before the event.
- Hyperarousal – Constantly experiencing feelings of irritability or anger, and becoming easily startled and always alert. Many with PTSD will also struggle to fall asleep, or stay asleep.