When a partner, close friend, or immediate family member has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, it affects you too. PTSD isn’t easy to deal with, but there are ways you can help your loved one through it before it takes too much of a toll on your relationship with them.
Remember, whoever it may be, they did not wish this condition upon themselves and try not to take the symptoms personally. Instead, it’s probably best to educate yourself on PTSD, researching its causes, effects, and coping mechanisms so you can be the best possible support system for your loved one.
With the right help, PTSD symptoms will eventually start to improve, and your loved one can live a healthy, fulfilling life.
So, what are some of the things you can do to help your loved one through their PTSD recovery journey?
Listen to Them
One of the best things you can do is simply listen to your friend, partner, or family member when they need to talk. While you shouldn’t force them into talking about traumatic memories if they’re not ready, it’s still crucial that you provide a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen.
Let them know that you’re not passing any judgement regarding their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and there’s no need to try and give any advice. Instead, just be present for them at that moment, providing whatever emotional support they need.
Some of what they have to say may be hard to listen to, and someone living with PTSD may need to talk through traumatic events over and over again to truly process them, so try to be patient.
Anticipate Triggers and Manage Them Accordingly
If you’re unsure, a trigger can be almost anything. It could be a person, a place, a flashback, a sound, or a smell.
Triggers can cause immense anxiety and even panic attacks, so it’s crucial that you help your loved one identify them and avoid them when possible. For instance, if you’re currently helping a military veteran, an obvious trigger might be gunfire or fireworks.
If you know your loved one is going to be in a situation where they could potentially be triggered, help them prepare for it mentally and emotionally. This might involve talking through what they’re going to do if they start to feel anxious or stressed. Having a plan for a nightmare, flashback, or external trigger will help your loved one feel more in control and less anxious.
When trying to uncover triggers, speak to your loved one about any episodes they’ve had in the past and what may have caused them. It might help to keep a journal detailing any triggers and how they were managed so you can refer back to it in future.
Construct a Social Support Network
It can be easy for those living with PTSD to withdraw from society, thinking they are a burden or that nobody could possibly understand what they’re going through. It’s important to help them see that this isn’t the case, and plenty of people out there care.
You might want to start by looking into any relevant PTSD peer support groups in your area. This will help your loved one feel less alone and can provide a great source of information and advice.
If there are no support groups available, or your loved one is not yet ready to face others, you can help by creating a social support network of close friends and family. These people will provide a listening ear and can help with day-to-day tasks, such as shopping or childcare.
It’s also an excellent idea to focus on activities they enjoyed before their trauma. Restoring a sense of normality and routine can help someone with PTSD feel more stable.
Learn How to Cope with Volatility and Anger
One of the most challenging symptoms to deal with as someone close to a loved one with PTSD is anger and mood swings. Anger is usually a smokescreen for other feelings, such as grief, helplessness, and anxiety. It can be tricky, but try to remain calm when your loved one is experiencing an outburst.
It’s best to learn to spot the signs before they escalate to potentially dangerous levels. Clenched fists and a raised voice could indicate that an outburst is about to happen, so try to distract your loved one with a question or task.
If you can see they are becoming visibly upset, ask them something along the lines of “How can I help you?” or “What can I do right now to make things easier for you?” Questioning along these lines simultaneously diffuses the situation and offers them a potential solution to any issues they may be facing.
If you can’t diffuse the situation, try to remove yourself from it until things have calmed down. Giving your loved one space is vital, as a lack of personal space can feel threatening and suffocating to a traumatised person. It’s also a good idea to have a code word or phrase that either of you can use to signal that you need to leave the room or situation immediately.
Gently Suggest Seeking Informal or Profesional PTSD Support
One of the most effective ways to manage and overcome PTSD symptoms is by seeking professional help.
If your loved one is struggling to come to terms with their diagnosis, start by gently suggesting they seek help from a counsellor or PTSD support group. You might want to offer to go with them to their first appointment to help them feel more comfortable.
If they are resistant to the idea, perhaps frame it differently. Rather than focusing on PTSD, suggest support services such as active listening as treatments for specific issues such as anger or anxiety.
Another good idea is to acknowledge that professional support, no matter the precise format, is not a silver bullet and that it might take some time to find the help that suits them best. This will help your loved one feel less discouraged if they don’t see an improvement immediately.
Seek PTSD Support from Sole Survivor Today
If one of your close relatives, friends, or colleagues is living with PTSD, you can often feel helpless. It can be difficult to know what to do or say to help them, and you’ll frequently find yourself in the firing line.
At Sole Survivor, we offer various PTSD support services, including peer support group meetings and one-on-one support sessions. These services can help your loved one feel less alone, offer them a chance to vent their frustrations in a safe, judgement-free environment, and help them develop healthy coping mechanisms.
If you’re struggling to cope with your own PTSD symptoms or you’re finding it hard to support your loved one, don’t suffer in silence. Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you.