Can Child Custody Cause PTSD?

A child custody battle is one of the emotive cases between the parents, especially where each parent wants to have sole custody and cannot agree on issues. This can be a complicated scenario and this may result in a stressful situation for the parents involved. In this article, we want to dive into the question that is imperative when it comes to a custody battle, losing a child custody case, and how the parents can feel after losing, or even during the emotionally-draining process. Can child custody cause PTSD? 

In matters related to child custody, PTSD is sometimes witnessed during or after the case among parents or children. A parent who is so much attached emotionally to the child may have a feeling of loss that results from the decision of the court and may feel like he or she has lost everything. 

What is PTSD?

PTSD is an abbreviation of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, PTSD is a kind of disorder that affects some people who have been into shocking, dangerous, or scary events. This also affects people of all ages, including both adults and children. 

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

A person suffering from PTSD is likely to show symptoms that we are going to highlight. This can happen in children and adults and a psychiatrist can easily tell when a person is traumatized by child custody outcome or other issues. Of course, it is not only child custody or separation that can cause PTSD, several other causes can make a person portray the following symptoms:

  • Angry outburst.
  • Emotional numb feelings.
  • Losing interest in previously fun activities. 
  • Nightmares.
  • Sleep difficulties or insomnia. 
  • Suicidal thoughts. 
  • Anxiety and irritability. 
  • Bad memories and flashbacks. 
  • Strong feelings or self-blame, worries, and guilt. 
  • Depression and hopelessness. 

These thoughts can be seen in different people undergoing different issues. Some people as well may show some of these signs when they lose a child custody battle, and these are the indicators that a person is undergoing post-traumatic stress disorder. 

PTSD and Child Custody 

According to research conducted by the International Journal of Drug Policy, it examined the impacts that custody loss would have on the social and health of women, and in their findings, women were reported to be the most affected by PTSD. A case scenario of a woman who had lost custody reported that for a long time, she felt like everything beautiful in her had been taken away. 

This is the feeling that most people undergo when they lose child custody. You may also find several cases of people who have been through traumatic situations after losing child custody battles. This answers our question and there is no doubt that, in most cases, child custody can cause Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

An outstanding Scenario of Donald Bonningham shows how he was traumatized after being restricted from his kids through restraining orders that were issued by the court. This put him into problems that caused him some trauma to some extent. 

This perhaps also comes with the huge costs of the process. A child custody case is not just an expensive process but also an emotionally-draining one. It can take time, energy, and resources before a case is finalized and when things go the unexpected way, this can be traumatizing and many people feel like they have lost it all. 

Child Custody Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Parents 

Parents who are in a high-conflict child custody battle are the most hit when the decisions are made regarding child custody. This is especially when one parent is granted sole custody and the other parent loses it all. A parent who is not reasonable enough about the best interests of the child, and may have pumped so much resources into the case, is likely to get more stressed and even traumatized by the outcome. 

In most cases, women are the most affected, as we had mentioned. That was according to the International Journal of Drug Policy. That means, women are more likely to be traumatized when they lose child custody than men. 

The psychological effect of being separated from your child, and the feeling of being powerless over your child’s fate creates a feeling that psychology calls “ambiguous loss.” and a parent is likely to show symptoms of grief that may include sadness and despondency, changes in energy, sleeping problems, tearfulness, and even productivity problems, that can easily escalate to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

Child Custody Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Children 

It is not only parents that are affected by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Children are also affected to a great extent. When a child gets separated from one of the parents, he or she may feel affected emotionally and psychologically. This situation may lead to trauma in children who get disconnected from one of the parents, and this may cause them to feel worried about the situation of their parents, and what comes next for them. 

Therefore, we can say child custody can cause PTSD not only for the parents involved but can also affect the child or children. That is the reason why most courts encourage the parents to settle their child custody issues amicably through negotiation or mediation to reduce the impacts that it would have on either party and the children.

When parents agree on child custody issues, rather than fighting to the last day in court, the impact may be less on both parties since each parent will feel satisfied with the agreements, and the children will also be less affected since there is mutual understanding between the parents to safeguard their best interests. 


As we have seen, child custody is a serious matter that if not handled the proper way can leave one parent with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A child or children may also be affected and the consequences of this disorder may be fatal. It goes to the chronic level. 

Therefore, it is important for parents undergoing child custody battles to seek professional help so that they can easily adjust and cope with any outcome that the court might decide regarding child custody.