When someone you care about suffers from PTSD it affects you too.
The symptoms of PTSD aren’t easy to live with, and the changes in your loved one can be downright terrifying. You worry that things won’t ever go back to the way they were before. At the same time, you may feel angry about what’s happening to your family, and hurt by your loved one’s distance and new emotions. It’s a stressful situation all around—one that can leave you feeling overwhelmed and confused.
The most important thing to know is that you aren’t helpless. Your support can make a huge difference in your partner, friend, or family member’s recovery. But as you do your best to care for someone with PTSD, you also need to take care of yourself.
UNDERSTANDING THE IMPACT OF PTSD ON FAMILY & RELATIONSHIPS
PTSD can take a heavy toll on friends and family members, and relationship difficulties are common. It can be hard to understand your loved one’s behavior—why he or she is less affectionate and more volatile. You may feel like you’re walking on eggshells or living with a stranger. You may even be afraid of the person. The symptoms of PTSD can also result in job loss, substance abuse, and other stressful problems that affect the whole family.
It’s hard not to take the symptoms of PTSD personally. When someone you love is distant, anxious, or angry all the time, your relationship suffers. But it’s important to remember that the person may not always have control over his or her behavior. Anger, irritability, depression, apathy, mistrust, and negativity are common PTSD symptoms that your loved one can’t simply choose to turn off. With time and treatment, they will get better, but it’s a gradual process.
SOCIAL SUPPORT IS VITAL TO RECOVERY
It’s common for people with PTSD to withdraw from their friends and family. While it’s important to respect your loved one’s boundaries, too much isolation is unhealthy. Your comfort and support can help a person with PTSD overcome feelings of helplessness, grief, and despair. In fact, trauma experts claim that receiving love from others is the most important factor in PTSD recovery.
Knowing how to best demonstrate your love and support, however, isn’t always easy. You can’t be your family member’s therapist, and you can’t force him or her to get better. But you can play a major role in the healing process by spending time together and listening carefully. There are some practical tips that can help too.
IMAGE: ‘Family Love’ by Takashi Hososhima