Can I Lose Child Custody Due to My Illness?

The American Psychiatric Association defines post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as an anxiety disorder that stems from a particular incident evoking significant stress. Usually people believe their lives are in danger in these troubling situations.1

Often associated with soldiers involved in combat, PTSD also affects survivors of traumas such as car accidents, sexual assault and other traumatic experiences. While this can affect a court’s decision on child custody, it does not mean you will definitively lose custody of your children.
 

Symptoms and Effects of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

The primary criteria to diagnose PTSD are as follows:

  • Symptoms lasting more than one month
  • Symptoms that significantly impair social, occupational or other important functions
If your symptoms cause those problems, you may struggle with PTSD. The symptoms that doctors look at to diagnose PTSD include these problems:
 
  • Frightening thoughts
  • Flashbacks
  • Avoiding places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Feeling strong guilt, depression, worry or hopelessness
  • Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past
  • Bad dreams
  • Being easily startled
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Feeling tense
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Angry outbursts
  • Shame or self-blame
  • Feeling alienated and alone
  • Difficulty trusting others
  • Feeling betrayed2

As a result of these feelings, people with PTSD often also have the following complications:

  • Physical aches and pains
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Substance abuse problems

While PTSD is certainly an issue that affects the patient, because of the its ability to change behavior, mood and demeanor, children who have a parent with this disorder will often absorb the changes in a negative way.

 

PTSD’s Effects on Parenting

Man in white shirt holding small baby with wife nearbyParents who avoid treating their PTSD will display unpredictable behaviors that may cause a child to take the following actions:

  • Emulate the parent’s behavior
  • Act as the parent and not the child in an attempt to fill the parental void
  • Have difficulty in school
  • Demonstrate an inability to have peer relationships
  • Have feelings of sadness, anxiety, worry and fear3

Unfortunately, when PTSD is not treated it can help create an atmosphere of uncertainty and even violence.
 

Child Custody and PTSD

If you are engaged in a child custody issue, the other party may cite your behaviors associated with PTSD to suggest that you are an unfit parent. If your child’s behaviors and feelings reflect your untreated PTSD, the other party may use your child’s school records, lack of social activities, nightmares and aggressive behaviors to indicate that your home does not maximize your child’s capabilities.

Your PTSD does not mean you will definitively lose custody of your child, but it can be used against you, especially if you avoid treatment. Therefore, it is important to be proactive with your healing. PTSD is very treatable, and there is hope available to you.
 

Help Finding PTSD Treatment

After a series of poor decisions, Jonathan learned that his ongoing depression was a result of undiagnosed PTSD. He sought help and has now become an advocate for PTSD treatment and recovery. He reminds those affected that recovery happens one day at a time, and it can happen for you, too.

— Read Jonathan’s story on HeroesInRecovery.com

If you or someone you know suffers from PTSD, we want to help you find the most appropriate treatment services. While recovery from abuse and mental health issues is difficult, it is possible and we can help, so please call our toll-free helpline today at (877) 345-1887. We are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about PTSD treatment. We are here to help.


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Sources

1 "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder." American Psychological Association, Accessed July 22, 2018.

2 "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder." National Institute of Mental Health, February 2016.

3 Price, Jennifer L, "When a Child's Parent Has PTSD." US Department of Veterans Affairs, February 23, 2016.