Mental Health News

How to Help Someone with PTSD 

By Jennifer Moynihan Wynn, MS, LMFT, LCASA, Finding Balance PLLC


It is not uncommon to feel a lot of different emotions when a loved one returns home from a deployment. The media often shows a celebratory initial homecoming, but rarely do people see the after effect of war on veterans and their families. The adjustment to civilian life can be challenging, and it is not uncommon for services members to experience feelings of loss, depression, and anxiety during the transition period. Family members may also experience changes as they adjust to their “new normal” when a service member returns with PTSD, TBI, or other combat related injuries. Tips related to coping with a family member who may have PTSD include:


  1. Learn as much as you can about PTSD: Understanding the signs and symptoms of PTSD can help promote insight and understanding of what your loved one may be experiencing. Symptoms of PTSD can include irritability and anger outbursts, nightmares, flashbacks, depression, exaggerated startle response, and feeling numb or disconnected.

  2. Let your family member know that you are available for them but don’t push them if they do not want to talk. Use active listening skills such as summarizing what you have heard. Try not to jump to problem solving or advice giving; you do not need to be responsible for solving their problem, you are just there to listen and be supportive. Try to avoid judgments.

  3. Encourage your family member to engage in social activities slowly and at their own pace. Part of PTSD includes social isolation, which can greatly increase symptoms of depression and anxiety.

  4. Encourage contact with additional supports if needed. Particularly if your family member has been experiencing severe symptoms such as suicidal thoughts or extremely aggressive behaviors, help from a trained professional may be needed. The number for the national suicide prevention hotline is 1-800-273-8255, available 24/7/365.

  5. Take care of yourself too. When riding in an airplane, the staff always makes a note to mention to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others, because you cannot help anyone if you are passed out. Continue to participate in hobbies you enjoy, balance your eating and sleeping habits, exercise, avoid excessive use of alcohol or other drugs, and reach out to your support system when needed.

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