Helping a Friend or Loved One who has PTSD
Seeing a friend or loved one experience PTSD can be very difficult. It’s also hard to know how to help that person.
Following these tips will assist you in helping your friend or loved one.
First, you need to know the signs of PTSD
A person has PTSD if they experienced a terrifying event and have many or all of the following symptoms:
* Reoccurring nightmares and flashbacks
* Anxiety and/or panic attacks when exposed to places or things that remind them of the event
* Avoiding thoughts and feelings associated with the event
* Avoiding places, activities, and people
* A clouded memory, including forgetting important parts of the event
* Expresses feelings of depression
* Experiencing sleeping problems
* Becomes easily angered or startled
* Develops new fears
Understand what causes PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder can develop from many different traumatic events such as:
* Watching someone die
* Being in a serious accident
* Being the cause of someone else’s death
* Being a police officer, firefighter, first responder, etc.
* Seeing something you already fear being played out
* Watching something traumatic happen to a loved one
* Experiencing long-lasting trauma
* Childhood abuse or neglect
The above information is also available in my post, Finding Hope When You Have PTSD.
Understand what caused their PTSD
As stated above, PTSD can be caused by many different events. It’s important to understand what they experienced so you have a better idea of how to help them.
Also, understand they may not be able to tell you what they experienced. It can cause anxiety attacks for some people.
If this is the case, either have them write it down or try to find out from a close family member or someone who was with them when the event happened.
Triggers are going to be different for each situation.
For example, if someone was in a car accident involving a drunk driver, some of their triggers will be different from someone who had a bad rollover accident. Even though both caused PTSD, the things that trigger flashbacks/depression/anxiety, etc., are different based on the experience.
Here are some examples of possible triggers based on the event that caused PTSD:
Been in combat:
* Shooting ranges
* Certain smells
* Seeing someone who was in combat with them
Been in (or witnessed) a severe car accident:
* Lots of traffic/Rush hour
* Driving near bars or nightclubs
* Bad weather/Driving at night
Being a rape victim:
* Being near the place where it took place
* Seeing someone who is related to the rapist
* Walking alone
* Certain sounds
(Keep in mind these are only possible triggers that they may have, not necessarily that they do have.)
It’s important to know what events caused their PTSD so you can have a better understanding of what may trigger the symptoms.
Help them stay away from those triggers
After you have found out what their triggers are, it’s important to help that person avoid their triggers.
When something triggers their flashbacks, oftentimes anxiety and panic attacks follow.
PTSD is not one of those things where you can put someone in the same situation they experienced and after they see it’s okay, they are suddenly better.
It’s a much better idea to avoid triggers and over time things get better.
*Note – “over time” is different for each individual. It can mean eight months, a year, five years…
Talk about counseling
Talk with your friend or loved one about seeking counseling. They may be comfortable with the idea, or not. Don’t pressure them to go – unless they are hurting other people or themselves.
It’s fairly easy to find a counselor online. A google search of “PTSD counselors near your city” will bring pretty good results.
And keep in mind there are regular counselors who help anyone experiencing hardship, as well as counselors who are PTSD specialists. Also, there are PTSD counselors who specialize in certain traumas such as combat.
It’s important to find a counselor experienced in helping people who have had similar traumas as your friend or loved one.
*Note – counseling doesn’t help everyone. For some people, talking frequently about what they experienced can make things worse and increase panic/anxiety attacks. Sometimes it’s better to give them time (6 months, a year, whatever) and then try counseling.
Try to put yourself in their shoes
Doing this will help you understand why they have PTSD.
When someone has PTSD, they begin to think no one truly understands what it feels like. This can cause them to become more distant and depressed.
Doing your best to put yourself in their situation will help them feel like you care for them.
I really can’t stress this enough.
Remember, PTSD is different for each individual. And people have it for different reasons, experience it at different intensities, and have it for different amounts of time.
While their triggers and fears (including new fears that have developed since the event) may seem ridiculous or annoying to you, please remember that they are very real, valid, and horrible to the person with PTSD.
And, post-traumatic stress disorder is not something medication can fix. It’s something that can only get better with counseling and/or time. However, there are medications that can assist with depression or anxiety.
Please share this article, Finding Hope When You Have PTSD, with your friend or loved one.
And remember, if your friend or loved one is threatening to (or already has) hurt other people or themselves (including abusing drugs or alcohol), they NEED professional help. Even if you think they’ll resent you for getting it, it must be done to keep them and those around them safe.
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