Post-traumatic stress disorder was often referred to as battle fatigue and was brought to the forefront by veterans who went through traumatic events during a war. This is a mental health problem that can happen after experiencing a life-threatening events in combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault, the National Center for PTSD reported. If you know someone suffering from the disorder, it can be a scary time for all involved. Any event can trigger night terrors, depression, anxiety and people may feel they are walking on eggshells with loved ones. The symptoms are not for the faint-hearted and can last more than a few months. Some signs to look for are avoiding events, depression, irritability and aggression. You can help by offering support, by listening, by being encouraging and by rebuilding trust. Here are 6 ways to help someone suffering with PTSD.
There will be changes in your loved one that you simply can’t control, but you can offer support. People with PTSD will withdrawal and you can help them by continuing routines that have nothing to do with the disorder. Introduce them to hobbies and other people. Take them to a painting class, exercise class and set time up weekly to have lunch dates. Let them take the lead as it is important for them to move at their own pace. They might turn your suggestions down. Just roll with it for now, even when you feel that help is being rejected.
Open Up Communication
Your loved one will want to talk when they are ready. They will want to talk about the same thing repeatedly as well. The process is all part of the healing journey and having an active listener will help them explore their feelings, thoughts and it will help them find peace. Being dismissive and agitated because you heard the same event rehashed over again will make them feel they can’t trust you. You will need to have a ton of patience with them. It is understandable if you need to take a break. Take a walk if you feel that it is needed to clear your own head, so you can help them again.
Have a Plan
Ask your loved one what triggers their anxiety or flashbacks. Both of you can come up with a plan on how to tackle it. Common triggers can be smells, crowds, sounds, locations, dates or certain sensations all can start an episode of PTSD. When it happens tell them that they are having a flashback and that the trauma is not happening again. Share with them that they have control. Encourage them to breathe deeply. Remind them of their “current surroundings, encourage them breathe deeply, and always ask before you make any physical contact,” Lotsa Helping Hands offered. Having a joint plan will prepare you for the future and for the unexpected.
Professional help is a must for the recovery process. Looking into treatment is viewed as a weakness from many sufferers. List the positives of seeking treatment like receiving relief from depression, anxiety, confusion, shame or guilt. There are 3 types of therapy that is commonly used for PTSD. Family therapy, trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (replacing distorted thoughts with healthy ones) and medication to treat secondary symptoms like depression. When you start looking for a therapist, try to find one who specializes in PTSD or someone who can direct you to a specialist. Call your family doctor for a recommendation or call your insurance company for a list of providers.
You need to remain calm when emotional outbursts come and remember they are never predictable. Don’t crowd the person as this can threaten them even more. This will prevent the situation from escalating. Ask them to try relaxing techniques like breathing, exercise, listening to music or praying. You can remind them that they are in the present and not in the past. Ask them how you can help them cope. If none of this works you might have to walk away if you feel unsafe. Call someone to come over to support you if there’s an imminent threat.
Know Your Limits
You need to know your own limits. Dealing with someone with PTSD is draining emotionally, physically and spiritually. You may need to find support in a group or seek counseling for yourself. With the constant exposure to their pain and stories you can be impacted and are at risk for PTSD. Caregivers of veterans may experience isolation, stress, depression, depletion and may overall see a decline in their well-being. Take care of yourself by eating healthy and asking for help when you need it. You don’t want to experience burnout which may include feeling blue, feeling irritable, feeling resentful, feeling hopeless and feeling helpless.
Written by Corine Gatti