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Mental Health Center

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Helping a Family Member Who Has PTSD - Topic Overview

How can I communicate better? continued...

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.

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 friends.
  • 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 day.
  • 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.
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