Americans, on the whole, have experienced an alarming amount of trauma. To wit, 70% of adults report experiencing trauma, to say nothing of children. For many, this trauma leads to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — 5% of adolescents and 3.6% of adults in the United States struggled with PTSD in the last year.
Our team here at the Institute for Advanced Psychiatry, which is led by Dr. Diana Ghelber, has extensive experience helping patients of all ages with PTSD. While we can do our part here through our professional services, we’re often asked how loved ones can support this treatment.
In the following, we discuss a few ways you can help your loved one through this difficult time, ultimately helping them break free from the bonds of PTSD.
Understand the problem
One of the most important steps to take when it comes to dealing with PTSD in a loved one is to truly understand the problem. People deal with trauma in different ways, and for those less fortunate, PTSD can take hold. This disorder hijacks your loved one’s brain, which means their thoughts and actions aren’t necessarily their own and they have little control over them.
Think of PTSD as a rewiring in the brain that places your loved one in a heightened state of stress, or fight-or-flight mode. This unrelenting state of stress can have both psychological and physical effects that exact a heavy toll on their emotional health.
So, the first supportive step you can take is to be patient and understanding.
As we’ve already pointed out, trauma can affect people in wildly different ways. Perhaps you experienced the same traumatic event and you’ve come out the other side while your loved one still struggles. Or maybe you believe that they’re exaggerating the event in their minds.
It’s important that you take their response (PTSD) very seriously and you don’t push them to “just move on.” Reclaiming mental health is a tough journey and one that requires time and patience.
Don’t take it personally
One of the hallmarks of PTSD is irritability and moodiness. If your loved one lashes out, we urge you not to take it personally. Your loved one is, quite literally, not in their right mind, so be forgiving and try not to react to their anger.
Be ready when they’re ready
As your loved one progresses through our PTSD treatments, stand at the ready to discuss their problems when they’re ready. There’s no timeline for when your loved one will be free from the trauma, so your job is to be steadfast and patient. Here again, we underscore the importance of not pushing them, but, instead, allow them to come to you to talk it over. And when they do, recognize that this is a significant step in the right direction.
A serious turn
As you watch and listen to your loved one, be on the lookout for any signs of depression and suicidal thoughts. These are very serious and you should alert us right away if your loved one speaks about death or the world without them in it.
As well, watch out for any dangerous coping mechanisms, such as substance use, and report them to us without confronting your loved one.
If you have more questions about helping your loved one with PTSD, please contact one of our two locations in Fort Worth or Granbury, Texas.