Helping a Family Member Who Has PTSD - Overview
When someone has
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it changes
family life. The person with PTSD may act differently and get angry easily. He
or she may not want to do things you used to enjoy together.
may feel scared and frustrated about the changes you see in your loved one. You
also may feel angry about what's happening to your family, or wonder if things
will ever go back to the way they were. These feelings and worries are common
in people who have a family member with PTSD.
It is important to
learn about PTSD so you can understand why it happened, how it is treated, and
what you can do to help. But you also need to take care of yourself. Changes in
family life are stressful, and taking care of yourself will make it easier to
How can I help?
You may feel helpless, but there
are many things you can do. Nobody expects you to have all the answers.
Here are ways you can help:
- Learn as much as you can about PTSD. Knowing
how PTSD affects people may help you understand what your family member is
going through. The more you know, the better you and your family can handle
- Offer to go to doctor visits with your family member. You can
help keep track of medicine and therapy, and you can be there for
- Tell your loved one you want to listen and that you also
understand if he or she doesn't feel like talking.
- Plan family
activities together, like having dinner or going to a movie.
- Take a
walk, go for a bike ride, or do some other physical activity together. Exercise
is important for health and helps clear your mind.
contact with family and close friends. A support system will help your family
member get through difficult changes and stressful times.
Your family member may not want your help. If this
happens, keep in mind that withdrawal can be a symptom of PTSD. A person who
withdraws may not feel like talking, taking part in group activities, or being
around other people. Give your loved one space, but tell him or her that you
will always be ready to help.
How can I deal with anger or violent behavior?
Your family member may feel angry about many things. Anger is a normal
reaction to trauma, but it can hurt relationships and make it hard to think
clearly. Anger also can be frightening.
If anger leads to violent
behavior or abuse, it's dangerous. Go to a safe place and call for help right away. Make sure children are in a safe place as well.
It's hard to talk to someone who is angry. One thing
you can do is set up a time-out system. This helps you find a way to talk even
while angry. Here's one way to do this.
- Agree that either of you can call a time-out
at any time.
- Agree that when someone calls a time-out, the
discussion must stop right then.
- Decide on a signal you will use to
call a time-out. The signal can be a word that you say or a hand
- Agree to tell each other where you will be and what you
will be doing during the time-out. Tell each other what time you will come