Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is painful and disruptive not only to those who suffer from it but also to those who love them.
PTSD is a psychological disorder that begins after someone undergoes or witnesses traumatic events. This condition is most commonly thought of as afflicting military veterans, but it reaches many others as well.
If you love someone with PTSD, you may already know what trauma they have endured. Childhood abuse and neglect, sexual abuse, auto accidents, and more can also lead to PTSD.
Perhaps you have been present when your loved one experiences flashbacks, nightmares, or unpredictable triggers that prompt their symptoms. You’ve seen how much emotional pain they are in. You know how PTSD is interfering with their life, and perhaps with your life together.
Fortunately, there are many ways you can help your loved one with PTSD. Each situation is different, but the following ideas can be helpful for both of you.
Be There for Them
Don’t feel the need to give advice or try to change their behavior when they’re experiencing anxiety or flashbacks. Sit calmly with them; be present unless they ask you to leave.
Avoid overwhelming them with too many words, even though you may have the best of intentions. This tip applies even when they are not directly experiencing distress. Do ask them how you can best help them.
Treat Them Normally
Continue to treat your loved one as you always have. It can be easy to unintentionally treat them as though they are less capable than they used to be.
If you live with your loved one, create and maintain a calm, peaceful home environment. Be mindful of the news and other programs you allow into your home. Controlling noise levels can be helpful.
Know Their Triggers
Ask your loved one if there are specific things that spark adverse reactions, memories, or flashbacks. You can also pay attention on your own for these things. Being aware helps you to take proactive steps ahead of time.
Don’t Take It Personally
PTSD often causes someone to feel emotionally numb and distant. They may not be able to express love and care the way they’d like to. Remember, this doesn’t mean you are the cause of emotional distance.
Create Social Support for Both of You
The importance of social support for PTSD patients is well-demonstrated. This support includes their family relationships, of course. But time with friends and other groups with shared interests helps, as well. This approach is valid not just for your loved one, but also for you!
Take Care of Yourself
If you haven’t already, learning stress management techniques for yourself is vital. Loving and living with someone who has PTSD creates tension for you, as well. Exercise, meditation, time for yourself, and positive self-talk are vital to helping you keep balanced while supporting your loved one.
Reach Out for Professional Help
PTSD is a complex disorder. While your love and support are invaluable in their recovery, sometimes an expert is needed. If your loved one already attends therapy, ask if you can attend a session with them. Or, perhaps you can meet with their therapist individually to find out more about how you can help.
Finally, there may be times when emergency help is also needed. If your loved one becomes violent or suicidal, dial 911. If they begin drinking too much, or abuse other substances, look into support groups for yourself if they are not willing to get help.
The good news is that help is available, and healing is possible. The growing awareness of PTSD means that more treatment options are available. More resources are on hand, both for those who suffer and those who love someone struggling with PTSD.
We are here for you and your loved one during this time. Please contact our office to learn more.
To find out more about our services click here.