How Can I Help a Loved One with PTSD?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be hard on not just the individual experiencing its symptoms, but the family and loved ones around that person as well. When you don’t know how to help someone, it can be frustrating and demoralizing. Changes in a loved one’s personality or attitude can make you feel like it’s your fault or you did something when in fact it most likely has nothing to do with you at all. If your loved one is experiencing PTSD, there are ways you can help them directly and indirectly. 

Learning about your loved one’s PTSD is the first step in helping them, even if you don’t play an active role. This article will go over some important ways you can reach out to the person experiencing PTSD to help them in their journey. The healing process may be slow, but you being there for your loved one can mean the world to them no matter how long the road to recovery is.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health disorder that stems from people experiencing or observing a life-threatening event such as military combat, car accidents, assaults, disasters, and injuries. The person experiencing the traumatic event may not have any control over what is going on and may have extreme fear in relation to these events. Any person who experiences this can start to develop PTSD and the condition can last months or years. 

Certain triggers can bring back the traumatic memories and be accompanied by intense emotional and physical reactions as well. Symptoms of PTSD include nightmares, unwanted memories, avoiding situations that are similar to the traumatic situation, heightened emotional reactions, stress, anxiety, or depression. The person seeking help with their PTSD may need trauma-focused psychotherapy as well as medication to manage symptoms.

How Can I Help?

PTSD has the power to seemingly turn someone you love into someone you may not recognize some of the time. It can affect relationships and ruin friendships if people are not understanding of the disorder or if the person is not on a path to seek therapy and work on themselves as well. Healing from trauma can be a very hard engine to start, but if the person experiencing PTSD has a good support system, it makes it that much easier.

Here are some way you can help a loved one who is dealing with PTSD:

Educate Yourself

Before you can give support for PTSD, it is important to know what it is and how you can help. Learning about PTSD by reading articles, doing research, talking to a therapist, and communicating with other families going through the same thing via online groups or meet ups can help you get an idea of what your loved one is going through and what to expect so you don’t get upset with them when they are having a bad day or week. 

Be There to Listen

Making yourself available to listen to someone with PTSD vent their frustrations, concerns and thoughts is a great way to show support. The more you make yourself available, the more the person will more than likely open up and feel comfortable confiding in you. 

Anxiety is a big part of PTSD for some people with the disorder and needing reassurance that you’ll be there to help them through the hard times is an incredible help. If you feel like the job is too big for you alone, you can always hire a therapist to talk to you and your loved one or just your loved one, depending on what they feel comfortable with. Having an unbiased opinion can sometimes make all the difference as well.

Don’t Put Pressure on Loved One 

Everyone deals with trauma differently and sometimes, the person with PTSD won’t feel comfortable opening up right away. It can take months or even years before they feel ready to talk. While this can be frustrating as a family member because you want to see your loved one feel better, it can put too much pressure on them to talk when they aren’t ready.

Help Loved One Find Support

If your loved one is ready to talk, but they feel embarrassed or ashamed of their experiences, you can help them find resources and make appointments for them to see a professional about their struggles. Attend together whenever they are comfortable to add additional people to the sessions, as this can be healing for everyone involved and sometimes therapists can put things into a perspective that can be so hard to see when you are so close to the person with PTSD.

Anticipate Triggers for PTSD

It can be very upsetting to see someone you love experience the symptoms of PTSD. It is important to note and ask about any triggers your loved one has so you can be prepared and help them when they need it. Some more common examples of triggers are listed below,, but keep in mind they are different for every person:

  • Seeing media coverage of similar events.
  • Sights, sounds or smells.
  • Anniversaries of the trauma date.
  • Hospitals or receiving medical treatment.
  • Funerals.

Get Knowledgeable and Professional Trauma/PTSD Help Today

When you choose Stanley Wipfli as your therapist, you get experience and care. Stanley Wipfli is a licensed trauma therapist based in downtown San Francisco who specializes in therapy for anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

You don’t have to continue to suffer when help is available that can transform your life. With therapy, it’s possible to discover how to create a life where you thrive.

If you are looking for a compassionate and knowledgeable trauma therapist, contact Stanley to set up a free 15-minute consultation. In-person therapy is available in downtown San Francisco as well as virtual therapy for California residents.