Best ways to support someone with PTSD
Disturbing memories experienced during combat can haunt service members years after they return home. So can traumatic events not linked to combat, like crimes or tragedies.
The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder are numerous and more than a little jarring for those who face them. The effects also deeply concern family members who desperately want to help their loved ones cope.
Without proper care, PTSD symptoms may last for a lifetime and may even worsen as time wears on.
The most common symptoms include:
- Intrusive memories of the event
- Upsetting nightmares about the event
- Trigger avoidance (steering clear of anything that may cause a PTSD response)
- Mood instability
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Inability to feel love or other positive emotions
PTSD patients may experience a reaction to an event that threatens either themselves or others with emotions that include persistent fear, helplessness or horror, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
However, if your loved ones exhibits some of these symptoms, it doesn’t mean they necessarily have PTSD. A behavioral health expert can help sort out the root of the symptoms and develop a treatment plan.
What Are Treatment Options?
In addition to antidepressant and antianxiety medication, NAMI points out three psychotherapy options available to those suffering from PTSD. They include:
- Behavior Therapy. This option typically exposes a person to the feared situation while working on relaxation and coping techniques. This gradually makes her less sensitive to it.
- Cognitive Therapy. The person with PTSD looks at her own thought patterns and minimizes thoughts that lead to non-productive and negative feelings.
- Group Therapy. This is for those who would benefit most from being with others who have experienced something similar. Group therapy gives them encouragement and lets them know that what they’re feeling is not uncommon.
Medication taken with these therapies can help manage PTSD symptoms, including depression, insomnia and feeling on edge.
Lend Your Support
Besides the numerous disheartening symptoms people encounter with PTSD, they may also feel guilt or blame themselves for their feelings. This is where emotional support is needed.
PTSD symptoms may also keep people from visiting their counselors and primary care providers. A friend or family member can encourage them to make and keep these appointments.
While it is important to communicate with someone who has PTSD, the communication must remain healthy, so the person doesn’t shut down.
Four good ways to keep communication lines open:
- Be willing to listen without interjecting or offering your own commentary.
- Help him process his emotions. Try to empathize with what he is feeling, because doing so will help him clearly identify those emotions for himself.
- Stay away from negative talk and criticizing.
- Remember that the person with PTSD has to be willing to discuss emotions. If that isn’t the case, don’t press.