Everything You Need to Know About Secondary PTSD

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Everything You Need to Know About Secondary PTSD

So many mental health conditions get swept under the rug by other, often more prevalent issues. However, just because something isn’t well-known doesn’t mean that it’s not worth talking about. Secondary post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of those conditions. Not many people know about secondary PTSD, and many may not have even heard of it. However, it’s an important topic to know about.

What Is Secondary PTSD?

Secondary PTSD occurs when an individual hears about a traumatic event that happened to someone else. Even though they didn’t physically experience the incident, knowing the details of someone else’s pain can be its own form of trauma. Secondary PTSD is very real, and it’s important to validate it.

Who Might Experience Secondary PTSD?

Some groups of people are more prone than others to experiencing secondary PTSD. For example, therapists may be at high risk for secondary PTSD. People in this profession are consistently inundated with other people’s traumatic experiences. Other people that listen to those who have been through difficult experiences could develop this disorder. For example, spouses or other close family members of war vets.

Symptoms of Secondary PTSD

Secondary PTSD can be somewhat difficult to identify, especially because it’s not as widely understood as other trauma-based disorders. There are some similarities between the symptoms of PTSD and secondary PTSD.

Some common symptoms include hypervigilance, difficulty sleeping, exhaustion, irritability, and anger. Many more symptoms can be correlated with this condition, as everyone has their own experiences. Additionally, this disorder can present differently for different people.


There are several treatment options for those dealing with secondary PTSD. Individual psychotherapy is often very effective, as is writing therapy. These specific therapies are effective ways to process feelings and work with a mental health professional to develop coping skills. Many people find that treatments that work for PTSD itself also help relieve symptoms of secondary PTSD.


Many people with secondary PTSD feel their symptoms are invalid because they didn’t personally experience the traumatizing event. However, it’s important to remember that hearing about events, especially in detail, can be traumatic in itself. People shouldn’t compare levels of trauma or invalidate one experience because another is “worse.”

Those experiencing secondary PTSD need to feel comfortable being open about their feelings. Otherwise, they may never experience relief.

Dealing with secondary PTSD can be overwhelming and feel isolating. If you think that you’re experiencing trauma symptoms even without having directly experienced trauma, speak with a professional. At Avalon Malibu, we have experience helping our clients work through trauma, so you can count on us to provide a variety of effective services. It’s never too late to start focusing on your mental health and working through difficult emotions. Reach out to Avalon Malibu today at (844) 857-5992 to explore treatment options. 

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