PTSD and Your Family - Topic Overview
Things that suddenly remind you of your
traumatic event are called triggers. Triggers can bring up stressful feelings
or cause you to have flashbacks, which means you feel like you're reliving the
event all over again.
Trying to avoid triggers is a common
reaction. It's normal to stay away from things that cause you stress. Because
of this, you may feel like you can't do the things you used to enjoy. This may
be hard on you and your family.
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.