When someone you love has Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it can be overwhelming and frustrating. The person with PTSD may have severe mood swings, erratic behavior, and no longer interest in activities they were in. You may wonder if things will ever be as they used to be. All those feelings are valid and quite common when dealing with PTSD.
It is essential to research and learn about PTSD so you can understand why it happens, how it is treated, and what you can do to help. The more you know about PTSD symptoms, effects, and treatment options, the better prepared you’ll be to help your loved one. PTSD doesn’t have to be forever and can be managed with therapy and medications.
1. Educate yourself
The first step in living with and helping a loved one with PTSD is to research and learn about the symptoms of PTSD and understand how these symptoms may impact their behavior. Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a solid and lasting emotional reaction to a disturbing event, such as war, violence, sexual assault, or a natural disaster.
2. Know the triggers
A family needs to be aware of their loved one’s triggers. For example, the smell from a family barbeque may trigger your loved one’s PTSD symptoms if they witnessed or survived a fire. Media coverage or conversations about wars can be a trigger for veterans that served in combat. Talk to your loved one about how you should respond when they have a nightmare, flashback, or panic attack. A plan like deep breathing exercises or having your loved one name three items from their surroundings can make the event less scary for you.
My triggers are crowded areas like shopping malls, concerts, or sports games. Being in large crowds makes me anxious, on guard, and unsafe. Bringing a close friend or family and having a familiar hand to hold or shoulder to lean against can be crucial if I have to go to a crowded event. Also, knowing that I have someone close by who can guide me out of the crowd if required is comforting.
3. Listen to them
It’s important not to push your loved one to talk about their experiences. For some, talking about their trauma can make them feel worse. Let them know you’re willing to listen when they feel comfortable. When and if they start sharing their trauma, it’s crucial not to judge, place blame, pressure them or give ultimatums and demands.
4. Create routines
Schedules can restore a sense of stability and security to people with PTSD. Routines could involve getting your loved one to help with groceries or housework. Our farm life creates a stable way. Animals need to be fed and watered, and they can’t fend for themselves. Maintaining structure and routine helps me feel more organized and in control.
5. Help them find support and encourage therapy
You can contact hospitals in your area or your doctor for advice. Check with local mental health facilities or support groups that can also provide information. Getting your loved one involved with others who have gone through similar traumatic experiences can help them feel less alone. You can suggest the person with PTSD talk with a friend, teacher, coach, or even a preacher or religious leader.
6. Take care of yourself
Make sure to get enough sleep, exercise regularly, even if it’s just ten minutes a day, and don’t forget to eat properly. Could you not take it all on by yourself? You can develop your trauma symptoms from listening to trauma stories or being exposed to disturbing symptoms like flashbacks. You can also spread the responsibility and lean on other family members, friends, coworkers, therapists, support groups, doctors, or spiritual leaders.
If you are acquainted with someone with PTSD who isn’t as close as your friend or family member, you can still offer your support in small and meaningful ways. Avoid making insensitive comments, and be sincere in your support.
7. Know when to seek immediate help
If your family member threatens to harm themselves or others, take it seriously and seek help immediately. You can call 911 to transport your loved one to a hospital for evaluation or bring the veteran to the hospital yourself if the person in crisis cooperates. You can also receive immediate help for your family member by calling the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
If you would like to talk with someone, please reach out. I hope by creating this blog and sharing my experiences, you realize you are not alone in your journey. Therapies and treatments are available to help you and your loved ones understand and cope with PTSD. Therapists specializing in PTSD and support groups can help you manage PTSD and return to a more normal life. There is no shame in asking for help.
Disclaimer: The information shared in this post is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.