Coping with someone who has post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD and trying to help can be very challenging for family members, partners and friends. There may be sudden changes in behaviour, someone can become less communicative, more volatile and suffer from episodes of high anxiety and deep depression.
For family members this can put an enormous strain on personal relationships and can leave you feeling helpless and isolated. If it gets worse, PTSD can lead to the person losing their job, turning to substances such as alcohol and drugs or even be a cause for divorce.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. There is plenty of support and help available that can help you and your friend or family member come to terms with their PTSD.
Discussing the Issue with a Loved One
Many therapists feel that emotional and social support from someone close is important in helping to cope with a condition such as PTSD. While it is normally very difficult for the person suffering from this condition to be open and talk about it, they are probably going to be more willing to do it with someone close. It can take a good deal of patience and you may have to wait until your loved one takes the lead but keep at it.
Learning more about PTSD is one practical thing you can do from the outset. Not only will it provide you with valuable information but it can also help you gain confidence. You’ll also be able to see things a little more clearly from your loved one’s point of view.
Another thing is not to take the behaviour of a friend or family member to heart. This is often easier said than done but the truth is they have a mental health illness and it is not their fault. They are not choosing to be irritable or abusive because they are being dictated to by a very serious condition. When they do decide to talk to you, remember not to be judgemental or moralistic, but listen closely so you can better understand what is going on. Avoid easy answers such as saying everything is going to be alright but try to come up with practical solutions that can help you move forward.
Getting Help for PTSD
While families and friends can come together to help someone with PTSD, you need to make sure you take advantage of all the other support out there. Treatments such as cognitive behaviour therapy or CBT can be useful in exploring the issues surrounding PTSD and finding ways to move beyond it. That can include talking about the trauma that has caused the condition and trying to see it in a different light.
Joining a support group in your local area can make a big difference for both you and your friend or family member who has PTSD. It can make you feel less isolated and allow you to explore a range of different issues in safety and comfort with those who know what you are going through. It will also give you information about how to deal with certain events, such as when someone becomes angry or violent, and have a plan of how you are going to cope and manage the situation.
There is no one size fits all approach when you are dealing with someone with PTSD. Much will depend on their trauma and how long it has been affecting their lives, as well as how easy it is to get over. Making sure you provide that safety net for a loved one can make all the difference.
Looking after Yourself
While your primary focus is on helping someone with PTSD, you shouldn’t forget that you need to look after yourself as well. That means taking time out when you need it, exercising and eating properly and making sure you get enough sleep.
PTSD is a difficult and challenging condition, not only for the sufferer but for those around. It is not insurmountable though and with the right help and support you should hopefully be able to guide your loved one to a full and healthy recovery.