People often think about PTSD as only being a result of witnessing a traumatic event. Soldiers who come back from war, witnesses of murder and victims of armed robbery are usually the first people that come to mind when PTSD is mentioned. However, rarely mentioned are the families of those diagnosed with PTSD. While witnessing a horrifying event can be mentally scarring, simply being subject to the memories alone for a long enough time can have the same impact.
When Brannan Vines’ husband came home from Iraq in 2006, he brought with him memories that would cause him to develop PTSD. Surprisingly, these memories didn’t just affect him, but Brannan as well. She developed PTSD without even going to war. This seems strange, but it isn’t implausible at all. Let’s think about this on a basic level. When people are informed, in detail, about a tragic and/or horrifying event, they clam up a bit, and usually try to think about the news as little as possible. This can be applied to the families of those with PTSD, with one major difference. The memories of this horrifying event never go away. The person with the PTSD lives through them over and over again each day, and the family is only able to think about how terrible those experiences must have been, possibly overestimating them in the process. Those thoughts don’t go away, either; the PTSD has “spread.”
In a way, PTSD is “contagious,” not in a bacterial sense, but in a psychological sense. The “bacteria” that spreads the “disease” are memories, and they fall in the .01% category seen on hand sanitizer containers.