Supporting Someone with PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder is not easy to live with, and it can be incredibly challenging to witness a loved one struggle with the different symptoms that make up this disorder. It may be taking a toll on your relationship and can feel hurtful and confusing. Maybe you are feeling emotionally disconnected or are having difficulty understanding why your loved one is acting so differently or engaging in avoidance. It can be hard to know where to begin. Here are a few tips to help support someone who has PTSD.

A Few Tips:

Educate yourself on PTSD.
Absorbing information about PTSD and what the symptoms can look like may lead you to experience more empathy and understanding about what your loved one is going through. There are many misconceptions and misunderstandings around what PTSD can look like, and there are many resources out there which explain how it can manifest.  Understanding why your loved one may experience symptoms which feel hurtful and confusing may lead to more capacity to provide non-judgmental connectedness and support. Click here to learn more about PTSD from the Mayo Clinic:

Provide non-judgmental connectedness and social support
It can feel hurtful when your loved one is showing up differently in ways that impact your connectedness. After educating yourself on PTSD, it may be easier to practice non-judgmentalness which can lead to connectedness and support your loved one may need on their healing journey. It may feel tempting to push your loved one into talking about their trauma, and it is incredibly important to allow them to go at their own pace regarding what they share when they are ready. It may take time. It is possible that your loved one may experience withdrawal. Reminding them that you are there when and if they are ready to talk can be anchoring and supportive when and if they become ready. Structure and consistency have shown to be a strong factor in treating PTSD, and this can be as simple as helping your loved one in creating consistent habits and activities together.

Learn about their triggers.
A trigger can be anything that elicits a fear response in your loved one, meaning they may become stuck in their trauma and may leave their window of tolerance. Some triggers may be more obvious than others in relation to what trauma your loved one has experienced, however others may be more discreet. When someone is triggered, it can be scary and confusing to experience for both you and your loved one. Having a better understanding of what may be triggering for them can help you know how to help them anticipate and manage what they may experience. Check out the CARE Vault to learn more about some interventions and information you can show your loved one around trauma and ways that can be helpful to manage triggers.

Encourage treatment
It is important to differentiate your role as a loved one and that of a trained professional in the support and treatment of PTSD. Encouraging your loved one to seek help and supporting them through their therapeutic journey can be a great asset to the healing process. There are many clinicians at CARE who work with trauma and several who are trained and can provide additional modalities, such as EMDR, in the treatment of PTSD.

Practice Self-CARE
Helping a person with PTSD can be very hard on your own mental health. Having a self care routine and consistent, healthy boundaries is key in supporting and caring for them in a way that feels sustainable for yourself. Take time for yourself and remember you do not have to know it all, always have all of the right words to say or have all of the answers. This is your loved one’s journey, and they need to want the healing for themselves. Developing your own consistent self-care routine can give you the energy to support your loved one during this journey without it feeling like a burden or your responsibility.

Written By: Brooke Boeckmann, MS

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