Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a serious mental health condition that affects people who’ve been exposed to a disturbing, distressing, or life-threatening event. According to the National Center for PTSD, an estimated 8 million adults in the United States experience post-traumatic stress disorder in any given year, with about 8% of the population experiencing PTSD at some point in their lives.
Symptoms of PTSD may include flashbacks, sleep disturbances, or feelings of detachment, which can significantly impair a person’s ability to function in everyday life. If someone you know or love is impacted by PTSD, you may feel powerless to help them. But there are many things you can do to help improve their chances of a successful recovery – while maintaining your own mental health.
The more you know about PTSD, the better equipped you will be to help your loved one cope with their symptoms. Reading online resources and speaking with medical professionals can teach you to recognize the symptoms of PTSD, identify triggers, and understand the inner workings of the disorder.
Listen to your loved one
Many times, the best thing you can do to support your loved one is to offer an empathetic ear. Withhold judgment and refrain from offering advice. Simply being there to listen can help relieve their anxiety and make them feel less alone.
Spend quality time together
Your loved one with PTSD may feel as though they’re a burden, which can lead to withdrawal and isolation. Since social interaction is essential to good mental health, plan fun activities to keep them engaged and entertained. Encourage exercise, as well; getting outside and being physical can clear the mind and reduce stress.
Create a safe space
Once you understand the triggers for your loved one’s PTSD, ensure that your time together is free from anything that may make them feel unsafe. If you do encounter triggers for their trauma, learn how to respond in a way that makes the situation less scary for both of you. Working together to come up with a plan beforehand will prepare you for unavoidable and sudden situations.
Many people with PTSD may have extreme reactions, including angry or violent outbursts. To prevent emotional situations from escalating, it’s important to remain calm and repeatedly remind them that they’re safe. Don’t accuse them of wrongdoing or shame them for their behavior. And if things get out of hand, remove yourself from the environment until they’ve gotten their emotions under control.
Take care of yourself
Dealing with PTSD in a loved one can be a daunting task, so it’s crucial to practice self-care. Before you can help them, you must first help yourself. Shore up your emotional reserves by establishing your own support system and doing your best to stay both physically and mentally healthy.
Encourage them to seek professional help
No matter how much you care for your loved one, you cannot help them overcome their PTSD by yourself. Gently encourage them to seek professional treatment from a doctor or mental health provider. Offer to escort them to their appointment and emphasize the benefits of therapy and counseling by assuring them that a new life is waiting on the other side of treatment.
Alvarado Parkway Institute offers treatment for PTSD
Recovery from PTSD is possible, and Alvarado Parkway Institute is here to help. For over 35 years, we’ve been providing mental health services to the San Diego community, including treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition to our inpatient and outpatient treatment programs, we offer resources and education for family members and promote family involvement in our patients’ care.
For more information on our programs and services, give us a call at (619) 667-6125.