Earlier this week I wrote an article on Understanding PTSD. When you love someone who has been through a traumatic life event, it hurts to watch them hurt. It can feel helpless to see the ways in which Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can impact a person’s life in the aftermath of trauma.
Common Symptoms of PTSD
PTSD can show up in unexpected ways sometimes. Changes in mood, increased frustration and agitation can all manifest from PTSD. There may also be an exaggerated startle response and avoidance of others.
Nightmares, intrusive flashbacks and dissociation are common experiences for people who have PTSD. When someone is dealing with a PTSD memory, it often feels as if they are re-living the event.
How You Can Help PTSD
While you can’t make the traumatic events go away, there are ways you can support your loved one as they deal with the symptoms of PTSD.
Learn more about the impact of trauma that lead to PTSD:
One of the best ways you can be a support person is to understand what your loved one is experiencing.
Do some research on PTSD and let your loved one know that you are trying to learn more.
Just knowing you are trying to understand how they are feeling will likely help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Be a safe person to talk to about PTSD:
Once you learn more about the impact of the trauma and how PTSD works, be sure to let your loved one know that you are a safe person to talk with about their feelings. Listen without judgment.
If you are hearing them talk about suicidal thoughts, reach out for professional help or contact a crisis hotline.
Reassure them that you intend to keep what they share confidential, but also let them know that if you get worried about their ability to stay safe, that you will reach out for professional help.
Encourage counseling for PTSD:
As supportive as friends and family are, often people with PTSD need a trained professional to assess and help them through this difficult time.
There are treatment strategies and medications that can greatly improve quality of life and provide relief from the physical and emotional symptoms.
Gently encourage your loved one to get this help, just as they would go to a doctor for a physical health issue.
Those who deal with PTSD can reduce the impact of the condition on their daily lives. With your support and compassion, your loved one is more likely to feel understood and cared for, which will be more helpful than you probably even realize.
Be careful about the impact of vicarious trauma, however, as this can impact your own emotional health. Vicarious trauma is a kind of stress related to hearing about another person’s traumatic events and can be surprisingly challenging.
If you are feeling as though you may be experiencing vicarious trauma, consider talking to someone for support. Practice relaxation strategies and try not to take on the traumatic events as your own.
Depending on the type of trauma your loved one experienced, it may be wise to avoid listening to the details of the events. Instead, focus on offering calming, supportive redirection.
You will not be able to support your loved one if you are experiencing traumatic symptoms based on what you are hearing.
Remember to pay attention to your own wellness while you are trying to be supportive of your loved one.