Can I Lose Child Custody Due to My Illness?

The American Psychiatric Association defines posttraumatic 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.

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 definitely lose custody.

Symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

The primary criteria to diagnose PTSD are as follows:

  • Symptoms last 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 betrayed

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

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

While PTSD is certainly an issue that affects its patient, parents with this disorder will inevitable affect their children.

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 fear

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

Can I Lose Child Custody because of My 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 definitely lose custody of your child, but it can be used against you, especially if you avoid treatment.


Help Finding PTSD Treatment

If you or someone you know suffers from PTSD, you may want information about 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.