Helping a Family Member Who Has PTSD - Topic Overview
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
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