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Navigating Helping a Loved One with PTSD


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. This can include situations such as combat, sexual assault, natural disasters, accidents, or any other event that is life-threatening or causes feelings of intense fear or helplessness. June is National PTSD Awareness Month, and it’s important to understand the signs and symptoms of PTSD and how you can help someone who may be struggling.

Symptoms of PTSD

The symptoms of PTSD can vary widely from person to person, but they generally fall into four categories: 

  1. Intrusive memories: Intrusive memories can include flashbacks, nightmares, or recurring thoughts about the traumatic event.
  2. Avoidance: Avoidance can involve avoiding people, places, or situations that remind the person of the traumatic event.
  3. Negative changes in mood and cognition: Negative changes in mood and cognition can include feelings of guilt or shame, loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable, difficulty sleeping, and trouble concentrating. 
  4. Hyperarousal: Hyperarousal can involve being easily startled, feeling constantly on edge or agitated, and having difficulty relaxing or sleeping.

How to Help Someone with PTSD

If you know someone who is struggling with PTSD, it’s important to offer your support and understanding. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Be patient and understanding. PTSD can be a complex and challenging condition, and it may take time for your loved one to feel comfortable talking about their experiences and seeking help.
  • Encourage your loved one to seek professional help. While support from friends and family can be valuable, it’s important for someone with PTSD to receive treatment from a mental health professional who has experience treating this condition.
  • Be a good listener. If your loved one wants to talk about their experiences, listen without judgment and try to validate their feelings. It can be helpful to let them know that you are there for them and that they are not alone.
  • Be mindful of triggers. Certain situations, people, or activities can trigger memories of the traumatic event and cause your loved one to experience symptoms of PTSD. Try to be aware of these triggers and avoid them when possible.
  • Take care of yourself. Supporting someone with PTSD can be emotionally taxing, so it’s important to take care of yourself as well. Make sure you are getting enough rest, exercise, and social support, and don’t be afraid to seek help for yourself if you need it.

Encouraging Seeking Out Therapy for a Loved One with PTSD

While it’s important to offer your support to a loved one with PTSD, it’s also crucial to encourage them to seek out professional help. Therapy can be incredibly beneficial for someone with PTSD and can help them learn coping strategies, manage their symptoms, and work through the emotions and memories associated with the traumatic event.

If you’re unsure how to encourage your loved one to seek therapy, here are a few suggestions:

  • Emphasize the benefits of therapy. Let your loved one know that therapy can be a safe space to talk about their experiences and learn how to manage their symptoms.
  • Help them find a therapist. You can offer to research therapists in your area, help your loved one make an appointment, or even offer to accompany them to their first session.
  • Normalize therapy. Many people are hesitant to seek therapy because of the stigma associated with mental health treatment. Remind your loved one that seeking help is a sign of strength and that many people seek therapy to improve their mental health and well-being.
  • Be supportive. It’s important to remember that therapy can be a challenging process, and your loved one may need extra support during this time. Let them know that you are there for them and that you believe in their ability to heal and recover

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