It is challenging to be a bystander when someone you care about struggles to deal with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). Stress, anxiety, and depression are silent killers, and they are often hard to diagnose until it’s too late. The worst thing about PTSD is that it also affects the family and friends of the sufferer. Most of the time, you will have to deal with your loved one’s moodiness, distance, and even the lack of opening up to help. Understandably, it is inevitable that you might also experience frustration and feel hurt over their behavior.
However, it will help if you know that the person with PTSD is more vulnerable, depressed, and stuck in their condition. With the right type of support and help from friends and family, people with PTSD can find the strength to deal with their condition. Here are a few recommended ways you can help with:
1. Learn about PTSD:
To find a solution to a problem, you must first understand the problem. Unfortunately, a lot of people misunderstand PTSD and often attach a stigma to it. Lack of education on PTSD is the reason why many people mishandle a person suffering from the condition. They often tell them to knock it because it’s not good being depressed. However, suppose you feel that just being aware of the condition is not enough to make a difference. In that case, you can properly educate yourself about PTSD.
And suppose you are developing an interest in this field. In that case, you can do psychology courses, earn a bachelor’s or a mapp degree, or even go for a doctorate. Of course, it entirely depends on how much you want to help people fight PTSD or even develop a definite coping mechanism against it. Nonetheless, if you’re going to be a supportive friend or relative, start by removing the misconceptions regarding PTSD and learning about its symptoms and effects.
2. Learn to listen:
One of the most frustrating things about a person who has PTSD is that they are likely to shut themselves emotionally. It can take a toll on the people around them and lead them to push a person with PTSD to talk or share. If you want to support them, start by not pushing that person to speak forcefully but instead showing them that you will listen if they choose to share. And when they do share, you have to focus on simply listening and not passing on unnecessary advice. It will help if you become a catalyst in the healing process by allowing the person to talk about their trauma freely and without guilt. It would be best if you mastered the art of simply listening instead of talking when supporting someone with PTSD.
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3. Manage their triggers:
Anything from a sound to a place can trigger a PTSD symptom in a person suffering from the condition. These triggers can set off a panic attack or a painful flashback that makes the person feel disassociation. As a supporter, it is your responsibility to learn everything about the PTSD triggers of your loved one. When you’ve identified all the possible triggers, develop a game plan or a coping strategy on how both of you should respond.
You must remain calm when your loved one is experiencing a flashback or a nightmare. And explain how it’s only a memory and not happening in real life. Remind your loved ones that there is a happy place and things that calm them down. You can also try to remove them from the stressful environment and not force them to try anything they don’t want. For example, ask for their permission before hugging or touching them and avoid startling them.
4. Don’t be quick to judge:
If there is anything that a person suffering from depression and stress hates the most – the fear of getting judged. It is easier to say, move on to someone with PTSD unless you’ve experienced it yourself. One of the reasons your loved one is reluctant to open up to you is the fear of judgment. They are afraid that people will ask them to knock it or blame them for not doing enough to pull themselves out of this condition.
Your job as a supportive friend or a relative is to provide confidence to your loved ones that they are free to express themselves. You should provide them with a safe space to take things off their chest without being stigmatized. You should avoid undermining their condition by saying that their PTSD is a culmination of their failings. Avoid expressing your opinion strongly and try to empathize rather than cure them.
Dealing with someone suffering from PTSD is complicated. If you want to be a support system to your loved one with PTSD, you must learn to understand their condition and be a better listener. Remember to be patient, respectful, and non-judgmental. It would help if you won their confidence and trust and slowly guide them towards receiving professional help.
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