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PTSD may be contagious, research says

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Molly Black
Coon Rapids Army Reservist Molly Black was diagnosed with PTSD after her return from Iraq.
Photo courtesy Molly Black

Brannan Vines suffers symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. So does Caleb Vines, her husband. The difference between them is that Brannan is not a veteran. The trigger for her PTSD is the trauma suffered by her husband, says an article in Mother Jones

"Trauma is really not something that happens to an individual," says Robert Motta, a clinical psychologist and psychology professor at Hofstra University who wrote a few of the many medical-journal articles about secondary trauma in Vietnam vets' families. "Trauma is a contagious disease; it affects everyone that has close contact with a traumatized person" in some form or another, to varying degrees and for different lengths of time.

As the Vines' story suggests, researchers are coming to regard PTSD as a condition that can be communicated from one family member to another. Motta told MPR News that the issue is not well understood and that treatment options for secondary trauma are "kind of hit or miss." 

Motta joins The Daily Circuit on Tuesday, March 12, to discuss his findings about PTSD and its impact on family members. Also taking part in the conversation is Melissa Polusny, a staff psychologist at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center.

LEARN MORE ABOUT PTSD:
 "Military treating PTSD victims with virtual reality." The Daily Circuit examined a novel approach to trauma treatment.

"Drone pilots are found to get stress disorders much as those in combat do." The first study of its kind suggests that drone operators can suffer from PTSD, even though they may be far from the war zone. (The New York Times)