Of course, it’s extremely painful to see friends or loved ones suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And it might make you feel even worse if they ignore your offers of help.
If you’re in this position, is there anything you could do to make a difference? The answer is a resounding yes.
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A Brief Introduction to PTSD
After people experience traumatic events, they may have a disorder called PTSD. It can last for weeks, months, or years. It’s a mental health problem whereby the brain remains in a state of crisis after a physical danger has passed.
Due to this condition, people can experience nightmares and flashbacks. They may be hypervigilant of their surroundings. And they might have intensely negative reactions to triggers, which are environmental factors that remind them of their trauma.
Triggers can include certain smells, sounds, songs, sensations, colors, or news reports. Places like hospitals and events such as funerals could be triggers, too.
Furthermore, some PTSD patients tend to isolate themselves. And some feel anxious, depressed, hostile, or agitated much of the time.
Do you know someone with PTSD, and have you asked that person to talk about the problem? If so, perhaps that individual refused your requests. And maybe the response was angry, something to the effect of “mind your own business.”
Afterwards, you might’ve felt hurt and bereft, wondering what you should do. Perhaps you felt like you did something wrong.
In such a case, here are some steps that you could take.
1. Don’t Take It Personally
Obviously, it’s easy to say “don’t take it personally.” But it can be hard for us to follow this advice, especially when we feel rejected by someone we love.
Even so, it’s important to remind yourself that PTSD can control a person’s feelings and behavior in many ways. Most likely, under different circumstances, this loved one would have been happy to accept your help and companionship.
At the same time, if people with PTSD ever say or do something cruel to you, let them know that you’re offended. Be calm yet firm. After all, it’s important to protect yourself and set boundaries.
By keeping all of these ideas in mind, you’ll gain a more accurate perspective on the whole situation. It also becomes easier to stay optimistic and not feel bad about yourself.
2. Learn All You Can About This Disorder
It’s valuable to study PTSD. Thus, try to learn about different types of trauma and how the associated pain and fear can linger. In addition, find out the most helpful things you could say to someone who’s been through trauma.
3. Just Be There
You don’t have to mention the trauma yourself. Indeed, try to avoid the topic until the person with PTSD brings it up.
Instead, just listen carefully to everything this loved one says. Be considerate and caring at all times, and emphasize that you’re eager to talk about any subject.
On top of that, provide sincere compliments whenever you can, and keep saying “I love you.”
Eventually, your friend, partner, or family member might want to confide in you about the trauma and its vicious aftermath.
4. Create a Safe Harbor
In all of this, do whatever you can to maintain a sense of normalcy for the person with PTSD.
For instance, if you live with this individual, do your best to stick to a routine: consistent mealtimes and bedtimes, a regular schedule for chores and errands, and so on.
Plus, do fun activities — board games, relaxing strolls, and the like — whenever possible.
All of these things can be comforting, and they can provide feelings of safety and security.
5. Take Care of Your Own Health
If you’re really close to someone who has PTSD, you might find yourself suffering, too. For sure, seeing a loved one in agony can be very hard, and it might lead to depression.
For that reason, take special care of yourself. See a therapist if you’d like to talk about your life in a nonjudgmental setting. And don’t neglect nutritious foods, regular exercise, and adequate sleep.
By protecting yourself, you’ll be in a better position to assist your loved one through the healing process.
6. Suggest Therapy
Is your loved one getting professional help? If not, you could raise the topic of therapy and support groups. The guidance of a trained expert and the company of other PTSD patients can offer profound benefits.
Yes, with such support, a PTSD patient no longer has to feel alone or misunderstood. Instead, this person can start working through the horror and grief in healthy ways.
Also, if your spouse or romantic partner has PTSD, you might be able to attend the therapy sessions as well. Your partner may feel more comfortable, at least in the beginning, having you there.
7. Call for Help in Emergencies
If a person with PTSD seems enraged or despondent all of a sudden, don’t delay getting help. You could dial 988 at any hour to reach a Suicide and Crisis Lifeline call center. Or you could call 911.
As a final note, those who suffer from PTSD often struggle with addiction. At Recreate Life Counseling in Boynton Beach, Fla., we offer effective, scientifically-grounded trauma therapies to treat both addiction and the underlying PTSD. For more information about our work, please contact us at your earliest convenience.