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Anxiety and Stress Disorders

Helping with Possible PTSD

07/14/2005

Question:

Hello My daughters 18 year old exboyfriend of two years witnessed his father having a seizure last winter. This traumatized him completely to the point where he still has nightmares and "relives" it over in his mind. He told me that he will never forget it and that it replays in detail in his head. Ever since that night it happened, we noticed a huge change in him. He started becoming distant from my daughter and this past month has been doing some strange things. He even came out to us and said he was homosexual but doesn`t think he wants to be with men. He did end up breaking up with my daughter and when asked about the fact that it all started to deteriorate after his dads seizure, he doesn`t want to talk about it. He said these homosexual feelings started within a month after his dads seizure. I might also add that the night this happened (it was around 3:00am) he did call us and talk to my daughter and myself for a few hours about what he witnessed. We tried to help and reassure him as best we could without truly knowing what was going on with his dad. His dad ended up having several seizures in that time frame, but he only physically witnessed the one big one and the others he was in charge of waiting for the ambulance and helping his siblings cope. A year before that, his dad had a brain tumor removed and almost died from it and all the complications that had arose from it. Is it possible that the feelings of losing his dad triggered some kind of male uncertainty or made him want to distance himself from my daughter because we were the ones that were there for him? I`m not sure if I`m grasping or not but the fact that he still has nightmares on occasion about his dad and because at the time it was such a huge reaccuring event in their home that it just makes me wonder. Before this happened, he and my daughter were awesome and there were never any signs or clues that he felt homosexual or anything like that. I just keep wondering if this is a way of punishing himself for not being able to do anything to help his dad. Am I just way off? Thanks so much

Answer:

I am not aware of any research linking homosexuality to traumatic life experiences.  Sexual orientation is considered by medical professionals to be an inherent part of who we are as an individual, although society's opinions about sexual orientation, and what is acceptable or not in a specific family or community, certainly leads to conflicted feelings, misunderstandings and confusions.  Adolescence is also a time of increasing sexual awareness, questioning and experimentation - some issues around sexuality are common for many young adults.

This young man has certainly had some traumatic events in his life, including witnessing a seizure and experiencing his father's life threatening illness.   He may be experiencing depression, grief, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.  I certainly can't diagnose from your question, and as friends and supporters of his, it is not your job to diagnose, either.  However, I would strongly encourage you to encourage this young man to seek a mental health assessment and counseling.    He could start with his primary care doctor, who could also advise on sexuality.  If he does have post-traumatic stress disorder, there are excellent treatments available that can help relieve him of many of his symptoms and help him more forward in a more healthy way with his life.

Good luck

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Response by:

Nancy   Elder, MD Nancy Elder, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati