Helping a Family Member Who Has PTSD - Overview
While you are taking a time-out, don't focus on how angry
you feel. Instead, think calmly about how you will talk things over and solve
After you come back:
- Take turns talking about solutions to the
problem. Listen without interrupting.
- Use statements starting with
"I," such as "I think" or "I feel." Using "you" statements can sound
- Be open to each other's ideas. Don't criticize each
- Focus on things you both think will work. It's likely you
will both have good ideas.
- Together, agree which solutions you will
How can I communicate better?
You and your family
may have trouble talking about feelings, worries, and everyday problems. Here
are some ways to communicate better:
- Be clear and to the point.
positive. Blame and negative talk won't help the situation.
- Be a
good listener. Don't argue or interrupt. Repeat what you hear to make sure you
understand, and ask questions if you need to know more.
- Put your
feelings into words. Your loved one may not know you are sad or frustrated
unless you are clear about your feelings.
- Help your family member
put feelings into words. Ask, "Are you feeling angry? Sad?
- Ask how you can help.
- Don't give advice
unless you are asked.
If your family is having a lot of trouble talking things
over, consider trying
family therapy. Family therapy is a type of counseling
that involves your whole family. A therapist helps you and your family
communicate, maintain good relationships, and cope with tough emotions.
During therapy, each person can talk about how a problem is affecting the
family. Family therapy can help family members understand and cope with PTSD.
Your health professional or a religious or social services
organization can help you find a family therapist who specializes in
How can I take care of myself?
Helping a person
with PTSD can be hard on you. You may have your own feelings of fear and anger
about the trauma. You may feel guilty because you wish your family member would
just forget his or her problems and get on with life. You may feel confused or
frustrated because your loved one has changed, and you may worry that your
family life will never get back to normal.
All of this can drain
you. It can affect your health and make it hard for you to help your loved one.
If you're not careful, you may get sick yourself, become depressed, or burn out
and stop helping your loved one.
To help yourself, you need to
take care of yourself and have other people help you.
Care for yourself
- Don't feel guilty or feel that you have to
know it all. Remind yourself that nobody has all the answers. It's normal to
feel helpless at times.
- Don't feel bad if things change slowly. You
cannot change anyone. People have to change themselves.
- Take care
of your physical and mental health. If you feel yourself getting sick or often
feel sad and hopeless, see your doctor.
- Don't give up your outside
life. Make time for activities and hobbies you enjoy. Continue to see your
- Take time to be by yourself. Find a quiet place to gather
your thoughts and "recharge."
- Get regular
exercise, even just 10 minutes at a time. Exercise is
a healthy way to deal with stress.
- Eat healthy foods. When you are
busy, it may seem easier to eat fast food than to prepare healthy meals. But
healthy foods will give you more energy to carry you through the
- Remember the good things. It's easy to get weighed down by
worry and stress. But don't forget to see and celebrate the good things that
happen to you and your family.