How to Care for Your Loved One with PTSD

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When you have a loved one dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, it can sometimes be hard to know how to help. Here are a few suggestions for how to care for your friend or family member with PTSD:

 

Listen

PTSD can be very lonely. It can cause your loved one to keep to themselves and be protective of their thoughts and actions. If your loved one shares their story to you, your undivided attention reassures him or her that you are trustworthy, that you care, and they have support.
 

Show Respect

It can be easy to think, after a traumatic childhood, recent incident or event, that after a year or so your loved one would have recovered. PTSD, like grief, takes a long time, and for some can be a lifelong healing process. It is important to respect your loved ones decisions, needs and recovery time. It is important to honor requests for space, for time before they share their story with you, for getting support from others or dealing with it on their own first. Respecting your loved one during this time, sometimes means allowing your hopes for them to take a backseat to their timeline, decisions, and needs.

 

Maintain Healthy Boundaries

However, there are definitely times when you should not put loved ones' needs, timeline, and decisions ahead of your own. It is important to set aside time to think about what is too much for you; what crosses the line. Any actions on the part of your loved one that impact your physical, emotional, social, or financial safety are not okay. If this is the case for you, then consider lovingly leaving for a period of time while he or she works on their recovery.

 

Learn about PTSD

Just like learning a new language, educating yourself about PTSD can show that you care enough to bridge the communication gap and make it easier to at least have a beginner's conversation about what life is like with PTSD.  Here are a few books to check out:

Shock Waves: A Practical Guide to Living with a Loved One's PTSD
When Someone You Love Suffers from Posttraumatic Stress

 

Take Care of Yourself

Finally, it is important to take care of yourself. Surround yourself with support, either from friends, a support group or through online forums. If you have the option, take regular time for yourself to do things that recharge you. You can't take care of others without caring for yourself first.

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