When a family member or friend suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it can be overwhelming and leave you feeling helpless. You may feel angry about what has happened to them, guilty, or frustrated. However, your support and love can make all the difference in their recovery.
It’s common for someone suffering with PTSD to withdraw and avoid social situations, but being with loved ones that care for them is especially important during their recovery. Be respectful of their boundaries and decisions, but offer your support in helping them be involved in family or friend activities.
If or when they’re ready to talk about their post-traumatic stress disorder, be an open and understanding listener. Allow them to discuss whatever it is they need to get out without trying to add your opinions, judgement, or advice. Particularly for PTSD, some people may find they need to discuss events over and over. This is all part of their individual healing process, so be patient and understanding.
Trauma alters the way a person sees the world, making it seem like a perpetually dangerous and frightening place. It also makes it extremely difficult for them to be able to trust others, or even themselves. Rebuilding their sense of safety in any way you can will help their recovery process. A few ways include expressing your commitment to the relationship, creating daily routines and structure, minimizing stress at home, and emphasizing their strengths.
A trigger is anything—a person, place, thing, or situation—that reminds your family member of the trauma and sets off a PTSD symptom, such as a flashback. Similarly, triggers don’t have to be external. Internal feelings and sensations can also trigger PTSD symptoms. Ask your loved one about things he or she did in the past in response to a trigger that seemed to help (as well as those that didn’t). Then you can come up with a joint game plan for how you will respond in future.