Don’t Give Up
If you’re living with a family member who has PTSD, you’re at the frontlines of seeing the effects on your loved one. Sometimes, you might feel alone, scared, or confused. You might wonder how to help your loved one, or if there is anything you can even say or do to make things better.
It is normal to feel frustrated or discouraged. But there are steps you can take to help.
Use reliable resources to educate yourself about PTSD. The National Center for PTSD is a good place to start. The website has resources that explain what PTSD is, symptoms your loved one may have, and ways to treat it:
You can also support your family member by being there for them if they want to talk. Say things like, “I’ve noticed changes in you, have you also noticed them?” Explain that you understand that PTSD is something they have but not who they are. Even if your loved one withdraws from you at first, it is important for them to know that you will be there when they’re ready.
Show Your Support
Be there both emotionally and physically for your family member, especially if they have just been diagnosed with PTSD. You can do this by going to doctor visits with your loved one and helping them keep track of any medication they are prescribed.
When your loved one is experiencing intense PTSD symptoms, like anger or nightmares, comfort and reassure them. Help them by allowing them to feel what they’re feeling in the moment.
Dr. Matthew Yoder, Clinical Psychologist, says, “What’s not helpful, in the medium to long term, is trying to keep your loved one from feeling distressed. It’s a natural instinct . . . but it can make the symptoms worse. In order to get better, people with PTSD need to learn that they can handle distressing or anxiety-provoking situations, NOT how to get good at avoiding them.”
One of the most important ways to help your family member is by getting your loved one into treatment – especially evidence-based talk therapy. If they are not willing to try therapy, medication may also help.
“If you’ve got a family member who’s been newly diagnosed with PTSD, help them get into evidence-based treatment as soon as possible,” Dr. Yoder adds.
Even if your loved one is resisting your help, at some point, they’ll need your support.
“Don’t let them exclude you entirely,” says Dr. Yoder. He says that the key things are “remaining supportive, remaining available, not taking things personally, and not giving up on your attempts at trying to get them into treatment.”
Originally published on National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.