PTSD and Your Family - Overview
Talk with your family about your
triggers. They need to know what causes you stress. By being aware of your
triggers, your family can help you find ways to cope with them.
Some common triggers include:
- Places, social events, or even smells and sounds. For
example, smoke may trigger memories in someone who was hurt in a fire. Or a car
that backfires may remind a veteran of gunfire.
- Being around others
who were involved in your traumatic event. This may happen when veterans have a
- The anniversary of your traumatic event. Try to plan
enjoyable activities on and around the anniversary date. It may help to be with
friends or family.
Coping with holidays
Big holidays like Christmas
and New Year's can be stressful. The holidays can be a painful reminder of past
times when life seemed better. Big groups of family and friends are often part
of the holidays. This may be stressful because:
- Groups tire you out or make you feel
- You feel pressure to join family activities when
you're not up for it.
- You feel like you have to act happy when
Your loved ones also might ask you questions about your
life or about PTSD. You may not feel comfortable answering these questions.
Keep in mind that your family may feel some of the same pressures.
You can cope with holiday stress by:
- Setting limits. Don't join activities for longer than you
can handle. You can choose when you want to be a part of the
- Taking breaks. Go for walks, or set aside a place where you
can be alone for a while. This can keep you from feeling
- Getting plenty of rest. Take naps if you feel like
you're not getting enough sleep at night.
- Talking with your family
about how you feel. Your family can help you. Be honest with them about your
- Not drinking too much. Alcohol may make your symptoms worse
or cause you to have problems with your family.
For family members
you are the spouse or family member of someone with PTSD, here are some tips
for helping your loved one during the holidays:
- Accept the mixed feelings your loved one may have about the
- Respect and support your loved one's choices about being
involved in the celebration.
- Plan ahead of time how you will cope
with stress. This may mean talking about how your loved one will answer
questions about PTSD, or deciding how long you will stay at a
- Remember to take care of yourself. Do things for yourself to
- Keep your expectations realistic.
For more information, see the topic
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.