PTSD: Advice for Your Family & Friends
People want to help when they see you suffering.
PTSD is no easy fight. Your family and friends want you back.
They want to say something, do anything, to help you erase the flashbacks or flashes of anger. They want to help you defeat the pain that so often seems to come between you and them.
You understand that.
But you also know that good intentions can sometimes get in the way of healing.
How can you and your loved ones get through post-traumatic stress disorder productively?
Perhaps a bit of advice could help them know how to navigate PTSD with you, and provide you with the support you really need.
Here are several key pieces of advice for anyone who loves someone with PTSD:
1. Increase your knowledge. There have been a lot of scary, erroneous reports and characterizations about PTSD online, and in the media in recent years. Develop a clear and level-headed perspective regarding triggers, symptoms, responses, and treatment. It’s important to get the facts, to ensure you understand how PTSD affects your loved one, and the impact to your relationship with him or her.
2. Be available; not overbearing or aggressive. Reach out to your loved one. Reassure him or her of your unconditional support. Make sure your loved one knows that when he or she is ready share, you’ll be there. Be present and kind, rather than pushy or pressing for information or recovery.
3. Expect change. Offer your support, but don’t feel offended if you are at first refused or ignored. Your loved one’s mind is overwhelmed. His or her identity and perspectives are altered. He or she may not have the energy or strength to see your help clearly, or thank you appropriately. Still, he or she needs you to be there.
4. Please don’t judge. You probably won’t mean to. But it is difficult to watch a loved one battle PTSD, and not venture an opinion, or inadvertently minimize with an “I know how you feel.” Remember, your job isn’t really to know how he or she feels. You can be there without giving advice, or making assessments, about how he or she should recover. Simply try to honor and validate the complexity of your loved one’s PTSD.
5. Encourage treatment. Your loved one may say they don’t need help. Don’t buy it. He or she needs your loving encouragement. Do ask him or her to seek help. PTSD is serious and deserves professional attention. Be willing to assist with appointments or finding resources such as EMDR which is an evidenced based treatment for PTSD. Encourage follow-through and celebrate every small step taken toward recovery.
6. It’s okay to take care of yourself. PTSD can threaten to take over everything. It can even get in the way of your desire to meet your own needs .Maintain healthy boundaries. It’s okay to take a break. To help your loved one effectively, shore up your own relationships and indulge your own interests, so that you are refreshed and able to remain loving and supportive. You can support your loved ones and still enjoy your own life.
It’s important to remember your loved one’s treatment and recovery don’t depend on you. He or she simply needs you to help keep him or her grounded and connected.
PTSD hurts. It complicates things, and gets in the way. But if you face it together, helping each other meaningfully, you’ll find your relationship strengthened and your lives enriched.
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