Former foster children are nearly twice as likely to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as United States war veterans returning from tours in Iraq,
according to a study conducted by The Harvard Crimson, et. al.
One in four alumni of foster care experience PTSD and more than half experience at least one mental health issue such as depression, social phobia or panic syndrome.
As opposed to the horrors of war, which can be “expected,” the horrors of pre-care and foster care are not to be expected for children living in a healthy, normal
society. Children are not “expected” to experience abuse at the hands of their parents, other family members and then again at the hands of those in “care” that are
clearly expected to keep at-risk or abused children safe.
Survivors of traumatic events, later diagnosed with PTSD, often experience problems in their intimate and future family relationships…and even can extend to their
These problems could include, but are not limited to:
• Distancing or isolating self
• Lack of trust
• Severe abandonment anxiety
• Anger issues, lashing out
• Blaming others
• Nightmares (even “day” mares)
• Abnormal anxiety
• Fear as a natural state of living
• Inability to show appreciation for others or even self
• Physically hurting self and/or others
• Sabotaging behaviors
Foster children often go into the system because of what “unnaturally” occurred in their home environment. I personally know people that went into care because of
parental abuse which included incest, rape, violence with weapons, and other crimes. Living with PTSD often recreates the traumatic event that caused it and forces
the victim to re-live the occurrence.
So, in essence, a person relives an event--perpetrated by a parent or other family member--of incest, a rape, a gun pointed at their head, a knife pulled on them, torture,
betrayal, a shove from a moving car, a beating, etc. Again, keep in mind; these are NON-EXPECTED events for children in a normal, healthy society. Therefore, the
event intensifies the trauma of the psyche of the victim.
Episodes of these recurring traumas interfere in healthy relationships are often caused by “triggers.” Triggers cause the firing of the psychological recurrence of the
trauma/s that caused PTSD. Triggers include sights, sounds, smells, words and items. Many former foster children tell me that their triggers include cops, nuns,
clergy, hands, belts…even certain foods.
Are former foster children diagnosed with PTSD doomed to live tortured lives? Are they now, no longer the victim of their past, but now a permanent victim of their
diagnosis? Without acknowledging and without intensive work on their part…and love and understanding of others…probably.
Once PTSD/Always PTSD
A person can never be cured of PTSD, but the traumatic episodes can lessen in occurrence and in severity over time with attention and strategy.
Obviously, the first step of living well, even with PTSD, is acknowledging its existence an identifying what caused it. More often than not, intensive therapy will help
former fosters with this. In addition, therapy can help create strategies with will help lessen occurrences.
Specifically, my triggers include the words, “home,” “family,” “father,” “mother,” etc. I also have food triggers. In addition, my abandonment issues are ever present.
Furthermore, my “attack” triggers never abandoned me!
Step 1. Acknowledge
Step 2. Identify
Step 3. Get help
Step 4. Create strategies
I’m stopping here to describe my personal strategies that help lessen occurrences of my PTSD episodes. They may seem sophomoric, but they work. That is frankly
my only motivation. So if simple works, I’m good.
I just don’t use words that trigger my episodes, as in my reality, these words do no resonate with me. These trigger words used to debilitate me. Now, when I hear
someone speaking of these concepts, I am quietly grateful they are blessed with these concepts. Every once in a while, I find myself feeling sorry for myself, but that
happens less and less. I have acknowledged my food triggers and understand fully the reason they are my triggers. So I avoid them. Yes, as sophomoric as this may
seem, I avoid these foods. If you are my friend, I will have already told you that I have abandonment issues, so when we go somewhere, we will have put in place a
strategy to make sure nothing triggers me.
Another strategy that I employ is that I always sit with my back to a wall in public places. No one will ever sneak up on me again. These are simple strategies I use for
“simple” triggers. Obviously, triggers that set off even bigger issues need bigger strategies, as all experiences are unique.
Now, the final step…Helping others to be good partners.
Step 5. Help Others Help