Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) doesn’t fit neatly into a defined box. It has the tendency to overflow into nearly every area of life and get a little messy.
Unsurprisingly, it can be tricky to know exactly what to do when a loved one suffers from PTSD.
You’d probably love to say all the right words or do all the right things to help them feel better. More often than not, though, you might not have a clue what those right words or right actions are.
Here are a few tips to help your loved one suffering from PTSD.
1. Educate Yourself on the Ins and Outs of PTSD
Although specific PTSD symptoms cover the spectrum, it’s important to learn as much as possible about the disorder.
For example, those suffering from PTSD often face triggers that can change their behavior in a heartbeat. Taking the time to learn about how triggers work will benefit you and your loved one. More importantly, make the effort to learn their specific triggers.
PTSD sufferers also widely experience both anger and volatility. This can be incredibly challenging to deal with. Understanding the role of these emotions can prepare you for a situation that might have otherwise seemed like an emergency. The key here is education.
2. Create a Sense of Safety and Stability
When a loved one suffers from trauma, they are trapped in a constant state of negative arousal. Their sympathetic nervous system or the fight-or-flight response is functioning actively, probably in overdrive.
In short, this makes them feel unsafe, hyper-aware, and sometimes even threatened.
You can help your loved one by helping to reestablish trust in their life. Experiencing trauma can completely turn a person’s perception of the world upside down.
Create routines, keep your promises, and talk about the future. Do your best to keep stress to a minimum at home. The feeling you want to provide is that your loved one has someone in their corner.
3. Offer Social Normalcy
So much of the time, people walk on eggshells around those suffering from PTSD. It can become painfully obvious to your loved one that they just don’t fit in. They might even feel like the odd one out.
Rebuilding a sense of social normalcy will help when a loved one suffers. You can do this by treating them like a real person rather than something fragile or even broken.
Do normal things with your loved one, with respect to their triggers. Go get coffee or go out to dinner with friends.
If you’re not sure how much to do or what to do, let them lead. They will know their own limits, so follow their cues.
4. Be a Great Listener
It can be tempting to urge your loved one to talk about their experience or how they feel. While talk therapy undoubtedly has its place in PTSD recover, it shouldn’t be forced.
One of the most important ways to help when your loved one suffers from PTSD is simply to lend an ear. As easy as it sounds, zipping your lips to focus on someone else can prove to be challenging.
Aside from listening, it’s vital not to belittle their traumatic experience should they choose to share it with you. For instance, offering comfort by saying that it could have been worse is one of the worst things to say to a PTSD sufferer.
Listening is a form of validation, so practice being an expert at it.
5. Keep Your Own Emotional Tank Full
Caring for a loved one suffering from PTSD can be overwhelming at times. Not only that, but it can also be emotionally exhausting.
Even as much as you want to be there for them 100% of the time, you have to take a break to fuel up your own emotional tank. Establish a healthy self-care routine and stick with it.
Whether it’s going for a walk in nature by yourself, taking a long bath, or even spending time with a good book, allow yourself the space to rejuvenate. Making sure you’re well cared for is an indirect way to help the best you can when a loved one suffers from trauma.
If your loved one is suffering from PTSD and you’d like support in navigating their recovery and your role in it, please contact me. I can guide you through the complex maze of PTSD and offer a light at the end of the tunnel.