How to Help Someone With Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) sometimes occurs when a traumatic event is experienced. The illness is marked by uncontrollable thoughts, extreme anxiety, nightmares and flashbacks. PTSD sometimes causes short-term memory loss and can have long-term chronic psychological repercussions. It’s imperative to seek treatment for PTSD as early as possible. Symptoms can become more severe over time, and for some people, PTSD can last for many years.
Understanding how your loved one is feeling will help both of you. PTSD causes the victim to have feelings of intense fear and helplessness. Your loved one is most likely suffering from sleep disturbance, hypervigilance, and feelings of intense fear and helplessness. Your loved one probably feels like control has been stripped away. These are typical symptoms of PTSD. Stress and lack of sleep will make it more difficult for your loved one to see the situation clearly and make solid decisions for treatment.
How to Diagnose PTSD
The first step in diagnosing trauma is making an appointment with a doctor, preferably someone trained in mental health disorders. The doctor will talk with the patient to determine their state of mind. The practitioner will have to determine whether the prerequisite symptoms for PTSD are present before deciding how to proceed. For a diagnosis of PTSD, the patient must have experienced the following for at least one month:
- At least one event in which they re-experience symptoms
- At least three avoidance symptoms
- At least two hyperarousal symptoms
- Symptoms that interfere with daily life activities
How to Recognize PTSD
How to recognize PTSD without raising tensions is to look for avoidance symptoms, such as unreasonable guilt, fretfulness and depression. Observe if your loved one avoids the place, objects or events that pertain to the traumatic experience. Determine if a lack of enthusiasm for activities that were previously enjoyable is present. Also, be aware of hyperarousal symptoms. These can be outbursts of anger, sleep disturbances, tension or being easily startled.
Steps You Can Take to Help Someone With PTSD
You can take steps to help someone with PTSD. Learn about the disorder so you can relate to what your loved one is going through and know what to expect. Talk to your loved one, and acknowledge spoken feelings. Encourage treatment as it’s paramount for recovery. Invite your loved one to accompany you for a walk or some other peaceful activity. It’s good for the person to rejoin the world. Show your support in all ways, and above all, be patient.
People who suffer from PTSD feel like they’ve lost control. Taking an active role in your loved one’s recovery can help to empower them. One good practice is to focus on repairing the rift the trauma left behind. Encourage your loved one to spend time with family and friends and to leave the house for a little while each day. You might advise becoming involved in PTSD awareness as a step toward empowerment. The smallest action can help a person regain control.
Talking to Someone With PTSD
When talking to your loved one about PTSD, be clear and to the point. Stay positive, and don’t forget to be a good listener. When your loved one speaks, repeat what you understand and ask questions when you need more information. Don’t interrupt or argue, but instead voice your feelings clearly. Don’t assume your loved one knows how you feel if you don’t express it. PTSD is hard on everyone involved with the victim.
Help your loved one put feelings into words. Ask about specific feelings, and ask what you can do to help. Lastly, don’t give advice unless your loved one requests it.
Adolescents and Teens
Adolescents and teens can exhibit extreme responses to traumatic experiences. They may start to develop behavioral problems and act out by being disrespectful, destructive or disruptive. It isn’t unusual for children to feel guilty and to have thoughts about revenge.
Pay close attention to your children from the moment the trauma occurs. It is often necessary to seek out a therapist for them. Call us at 1-888-997-3147(Who Answers?). We are here to help you with decisions about treatment.
Learning to Cope With PTSD
You must not get so wrapped up in your loved one’s disorder that you neglect yourself. Don’t feel guilty for not having all the answers; no one does. Remind yourself that you can’t speed up the process of recovery as these things always take time. Make time for your family and remember all the good things in your life. Learning to cope with PTSD is equally important for your well-being. Keep in mind that in a given year, approximately 5.2 million people suffer from PTSD. That means almost as many caregivers are dealing were with the disorder. You and your loved one aren’t alone.
Talk to your family about concerns you might have. You need their support. Learn methods of relaxation, like meditation or yoga, that can help you take a break. Use positive activities as a distraction. Make an effort to spend time with people who aren’t connected to your loved one’s trauma. Don’t allow yourself to be suffocated by the PTSD.
How to Treat PTSD
If self-coping doesn’t work for your loved one, you’ll need to know how to treat PTSD another way. Find a doctor to talk to and offer to go to the visit together. Many people find answers in formal treatment. Psychotherapy and medication are very effective for recovering from a trauma. Learn about cognitive behavioral therapy and medications used to treat PTSD, and share this information with your loved one.
Deciding Between Possible PTSD Solutions
Deciding between possible PTSD solutions isn’t too difficult once you know which methods have worked for so many other suffering from PTSD. Medication and cognitive behavioral therapy work best for most trauma victims. Exposure therapy is particularly helpful. With this type of therapy, the victim is exposed to a fear gradually and in a safe environment.
Medication options will need to be discussed with the practitioner. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of antidepressant medication. These medications help alleviate feelings of sadness and worry, and they’re effective in the treatment of PTSD. Sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil), both antidepressants, are SSRIs approved for use as post-traumatic stress disorder medications. Other possible options for antidepressants are fluoxetine (Prozac) and citalopram (Celexa). The side effects of these medications, which usually subside after a short time, include:
- Sleeplessness or drowsiness
- Agitation or a jittery feeling
- Problems having or enjoying sex
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
A doctor might prescribe additional medications, especially if comorbid disorders are present. People who suffer from PTSD often have pre-existing disorders. Many times, the previous condition isn’t discovered or doesn’t manifest until patients are treated for PTSD.
In such a case, benzodiazepines might be used to help with relaxation and sleep disturbance. The side effects of benzodiazepines include trouble with memory and the risk of drug dependency. Antipsychotics are also useful in the treatment of PTSD. They’re typically prescribed for people with coexisting conditions. Side effects of antipsychotics include weight gain and a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Where to Find PTSD Treatment for a Friend or Family Member
You can contact hospitals in your area or your doctor for advice. Check with local mental health facilities or support groups that can also supply you with information. University medical centers are good resources.