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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 signal.
  • 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 back.

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 the problem.

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 accusing.
  • Be open to each other's ideas. Don't criticize each other.
  • Focus on things you both think will work. It's likely you will both have good ideas.
  • Together, agree which solutions you will use.

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.
  • Be 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? Worried?"
  • 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 PTSD.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 09, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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