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 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.