From mentalhealthhotline.org (article republished with permission)
Learn What You Can Do to Help a Person With PTSD
PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder is often mentioned in movies and television shows, but it’s more than just a plot device. It’s an incredibly challenging illness linked to uncontrollable anxiety, horrid nightmares, and destructive thoughts.
Some of the unfortunate souls who have this disorder also experience short-term memory loss and deal with additional psychological issues.
It’s estimated that seven to eight of 100 adults in America deal with PTSD. That’s a hard-hitting number. You can be a helpful voice for those suffering from PTSD if you know what to do.
Knowledge Is Power
One of the most important steps to take if you want to be helpful to a loved one is to learn as much as you can about PTSD. You can’t rely on what you’ve learned from movies or other forms of entertainment.
The more you know, the more you’ll be able to help. One thing you can do is call us at the National Mental Health Hotline and let us guide you.
Of course, you can find literature at your local library regarding this subject. If you’re going to do research online, take steps to ensure you’re reading verifiable content.
Evaluate What You Read
Misinformation runs rampant online, so it’s important to understand how to judge the information you’re reading. The following can help ensure you find reliable information:
• Look for trustworthy sites, like a university or medical journal.
• They should be supported by trustworthy sites.
• Data should be current or from the last few years.
• The information should be factual and objective, not biased.
Start a Genuine Dialogue
The next step you want to take is to start a dialogue. PTSD isn’t an easy thing to deal with. It involves heavy emotions and thoughts that you have to be brave enough to face.
To begin a meaningful conversation with the person who is suffering from PTSD, you need to create an environment where you can talk about anything. Put your feelings out there. Address what you’re dealing with, and give the other person the opportunity to talk as well.
It’s not going to be easy to talk about PTSD, but make sure you do. Once you start this dialogue, you can move on to figuring out what to do about it.
Openness and Trust Are Key
We’ve been working with folks dealing with PTSD for some time, and we know that openness is an important step in overcoming this disorder.
Hopefully, talking about it helps your loved one feel like they can trust you. That’s perfect because that’s what you need to start the next step.
Yes, there are steps you can take. You can call the National Mental Health Hotline to speak with our experienced mental health experts. We may be able to make a difference in your loved one’s life.
Find Fulfilling Activities
Another thing you can do is to help your loved one focus on an enjoyable form of recreation. Try to find something your loved one is passionate about that could foster a sense of well-being.
Ideally, this will be something involving the great outdoors because nature can be a great healer. Consider water rafting, hiking through a forest trail, or simply watching the waves roll in at the beach. Time in a natural setting is an effective tool to calm the symptoms of PTSD.
Nature is peaceful yet unpredictable. It demands that you pay attention to everything, every sound, and movement. All of that has a way of quieting the mind, which is the main reason you’ll want to encourage getting outdoors. This can be as easy as inviting your loved one out every so often for a walk in a natural environment.
Nature may not be a cure, but we know it can be helpful. Your loved one needs all the help they can get, and that’s what this distraction is going to provide: a bit of help. The symptoms associated with PTSD can feel overwhelming at times, so anything you can do will be helpful.
Allow the PTSD Sufferer to Take the Lead
It’s important to get your loved one to choose an activity that’s fulfilling, but you need to make suggestions, not demands. Be as gentle with your suggestions as you can be. When you sit your loved one down to talk about PTSD for the first time, do your best to bring it up casually, and only allow the conversation to continue if they are receptive.
Don’t Be Controlling
In your heart, you want to do everything in your power to get the help this person needs. Your good intention might tempt you to take command or force things, but the PTSD sufferer needs to maintain some control. Make suggestions carefully because you want your loved one to do something positive on their own.
You need to give people with this condition as much agency over their lives as possible. If the sufferer finds a way to overcome PTSD, it has to come from within. People who want to overcome this disorder must believe they can. The road ahead is going to be a challenging one. Your loved one needs every bit of can-do spirit that they can muster.
Do Be Patient
It may take a while for your loved one to do anything about their PTSD. This person may refuse the help you’re trying to give or the help we are ready to give if you call the National Mental Health Hotline. This is something you should expect, but it may not take too long. Just try to be as patient as you can with your loved one. They should come around when the time is right.
Keep Your Cool
A person with PTSD needs your support, and they need you to keep your cool. We’re saying this because we know this isn’t going to be easy for some people. There are a lot of reasons why keeping your cool is going to be challenging, and we’d like to talk to you about them so that you’re prepared. Those reasons include:
• The past may be unsettling.
• Certain events might occur often.
• It may take a while to see some change.
• The person may get agitated during this process.
• Hurtful things could be said.
When a person gets agitated, it can feel uncomfortable, and that could make you react badly. You don’t want to do that. You want to keep your cool as much as you can. If your loved one says something hurtful, respond calmly. You can express the hurt you feel but do it calmly so that you don’t make matters worse. One of the worst things you may experience with someone suffering from PTSD is their need to recount past traumatic events. If these events were particularly unsettling and involved things no human being should ever endure, then you’re going to have a hard time listening.
Keep Listening, With Empathy
Don’t shut down, no matter how much you may want to. Continue to listen actively, and be empathetic. One reason that it’s a good idea to give us a call is that we’re trained to handle some of those harsher truths, so you won’t have to bear all of them on your own.
Repetition can also get hard to deal with, but allow yourself to focus on the hopeful details. Look for small changes, and find ways to make this moment feel less uncomfortable. Yes, the truth is that you’re going to have mixed feelings about all of this.
One day you might feel annoyed, and another day you’ll feel tired or frustrated. You’re not the only one. Acknowledge these feelings and keep going. Talk to someone from our hotline, or find a trained professional near you to help process your stress, which can be substantial.
Find Ways to Cope as a Caregiver
You should also consider ways to cope with what you’re going through as a caregiver because trying to help someone with PTSD can be quite disheartening. Besides talking to professionals, you can try:
• Yoga or tai chi
• Finding distractions
• Taking a vacation
• Regular massages
Any of these could help keep you centered, especially now that you’re dealing with so much. While you’re taking care of your loved one, you also need to take care of yourself.
Work on Building Positivity
It’s important to create a positive environment at home. For example, you can make a point of speaking about the future and potential positive outcomes. Positive talk about the future gives folks hope. A few people who are dealing with PTSD can’t see a hopeful future. They don’t think anything good could come their way, and that’s a big challenge for you as well as the person with the disorder. To reduce stress, talk to everyone in your household as often as possible. Have discussions in the car or just out and about so that arguments don’t occur too often at home. One of the major sources of stress in a household is finances, so it’s important to cut debt as soon as possible to avoid that burden while you’re trying to help someone with PTSD.
Soothe Your Senses
Play soft, relaxing music throughout the day, and use lavender oil to make the house smell great. Lavender is known to help relieve anxiety. That’s a powerful tool to have right now when your loved one needs some help to stay calm.
Renew Your Commitment as a Helper
Do your best to emphasize your commitment to your relationship with the PTSD sufferer as often as you can. Given everything you’re experiencing in your interactions with them, this person may wonder why you’re still there. Reassure them that no matter what, you will continue to be there for them.
Emphasize your loved one’s strengths as often as you can. PTSD can make people forget everything they excel at. If you make promises, then make sure you keep them and consider creating a schedule every day for everyone. Keep to it because routines help create a sense of security, which is good for someone dealing with PTSD.
Find Potential Solutions
Calling us will be one step to take to find a solution, but it’s not the only one. Learn as much as possible about helping the person dealing with PTSD, including some of the medications available.
The more you know about these medications, the better you’ll be able to help make a decision should your loved one need to take them. It may also be good to look into cognitive behavioral therapy, which has proven quite effective.
You could also talk to a local doctor to get more recommendations. The possibilities are endless, and there’s no telling how effective treatments will become in the future. The fight to conquer PTSD is ongoing.
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