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PTSD and Your Family - Topic Overview

Triggers continued...

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 reunion.
  • 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 overwhelmed.
  • You feel pressure to join family activities when you're not up for it.
  • You feel like you have to act happy when you're not.

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 group.
  • Taking breaks. Go for walks, or set aside a place where you can be alone for a while. This can keep you from feeling overwhelmed.
  • 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 stress.
  • Not drinking too much. Alcohol may make your symptoms worse or cause you to have problems with your family.

For family members

If 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 holiday.
  • 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 party.
  • Remember to take care of yourself. Do things for yourself to relieve stress.
  • Keep your expectations realistic.

For more information, see the topic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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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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