What is PTSD? Learn How You Can Help.

Going through post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is difficult for everyone involved — it cause untold anguish for the afflicted and for those who are closest to them. The more you can learn about this disorder, though, the better you can help your loved one cope. Take a look at the following information to learn more about how you can help someone who is struggling with PTSD.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand the nature of post traumatic disorder (PTSD), so you can better handle the situation. The condition itself develops after traumatic and threatening events, but the range of symptoms and reactions varies from person to person.

People who suffer from PTSD may have flashbacks or nightmares of the event, making them feel as if they’re experiencing it again. They may avoid activities and places that remind them of the situation or lose interest in activities they were once enthusiastic about. They may also show signs of irritability or have difficulty concentrating.

What is PTSD?Image via Flickr by Key Foster

Countless people involved in a traumatic event may experience PTSD. People who are at-risk of PTSD include those directly affected, witnesses, family members, and more. Often, this extends to the emergency workers and law enforcement personnel who were sent to pick up the pieces. Common situations that cause PTSD include combat, natural disasters, car crashes, terrorist attacks, rape, and kidnapping.

Who Can You Get to Help Your Loved One?

If your loved one is suffering from PTSD, one of the best ways you can help is by turning to a professional who’s knowledgeable about the condition. Your loved one may have a difficult time talking about the situation, so it may be a good idea to go along for emotional support if you decide to turn to a professional.

Don’t just settle with any doctor, though. Research therapists in your area who specialize in PTSD. Learn more about finding a therapist at the National Center for PTSD. You can also enroll your loved one in a PTSD group to help him or her face the condition with others in a similar situation.

What are the Treatment Options?

Once your loved one enters treatment with an experienced therapist, he or she may go through a variety of treatments. To offer the most support, it’s best to understand these treatment options yourself. Some treatment options include:

  1. Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy. This is a psychological therapy approach where patients gradually expose their thoughts and feelings to confront what’s happened to them. They may identify upsetting thoughts about the event and learn how to replace them with a more balanced picture of the situation.
  2. Family therapy. If you’re also going through stress by helping a loved one with PTSD, you can both work together by going into family therapy. This can not only help you better understand what your loved one is going through, but also help everyone in the family work through the problem together.
  3. Medication. Medication is often combined with other therapy practices. The proper medication can help relieve feelings of depression and anxiety. Oftentimes therapists will prescribe antidepressants such as Prozac and Zoloft to PTSD patients to help them cope with the symptoms. While these medications can help people cope, they do not treat PTSD.
  4. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). This is a method of incorporating cognitive-behavioral therapy with eye movement and other rhythms, such as hand taps. This treatment can change the way your brain processes information to get your thoughts back on track when they’re interrupted by stress.
  5. Stress inoculation training. This type of therapy helps by teaching victims how to reduce anxiety and how to look at their memories in a healthy way.

Is Treatment Necessary?

From the outside looking in, it may seem like it would be easy to simply let the situation go and say “get over it,” but dealing with PTSD just is not that simple. In most cases, getting past the condition requires intervention, so if you suspect your loved one has PTSD, it’s best to get him or her into therapy as soon as possible. The sooner someone with PTSD starts therapy, the easier it is to see positive outcomes, especially because this gives victims time to figure out which treatments work for them, says HealthGuide.org.

What Can You Do to Offer Support?

Aside from helping your loved one start therapy, there are several other ways you can offer support outside of the doctor’s office. Consider these tips to help loved ones cope with PTSD:

  1. Help them avoid alcohol and drugs. It’s common to see people with PTSD and depression start turning to drugs to cope with their condition, but this only makes it worse. Keep a close eye on your loved one to ensure he or she is steering clear of alcohol and drugs.
  2. Get them outdoors. Spending time outdoors and exercising can boost moods to improve your loved one’s quality of life. In fact, research shows that exercise has a positive impact on the depressive symptoms of PTSD.
  3. Talk with your loved one, but don’t push the conversation. If your loved one feels the need to confide in someone, be sure to make yourself available, but don’t pressure him or her into speaking.
  4. Respect them. It can take years to get over a traumatic event, so even when your loved one still has nightmares or an irritable mood, don’t say things like, “It was so long ago. Why aren’t you over it already?” Respect that everyone reacts and recovers differently.
  5. Be patient. Understanding someone with PTSD is difficult, especially if you’ve never been there before, but it’s important that you give him enough space until he or she is ready to talk about the situation.
  6. Plan activities together. Whether you’re simply going on a walk or having dinner together, being around often can assure your loved one that someone is there.
  7. Take care of yourself. You can’t care for someone else without caring for yourself first. Make sure that you get enough sleep and exercise, so you have the energy to support your loved one.

Dealing with PTSD is a struggle for both the sufferer and his family and friends. Understanding how to cope with PTSD from your standpoint can help your loved one cope, too.