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Home > Wellness > Health Library > Helping a Family Member Who Has PTSD
When someone has
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it changes
family life. The person with PTSD may act differently and get angry easily. He
or she may not want to do things you used to enjoy together.
may feel scared and frustrated about the changes you see in your loved one. You
also may feel angry about what's happening to your family, or wonder if things
will ever go back to the way they were. These feelings and worries are common
in people who have a family member with PTSD.
It is important to
learn about PTSD so you can understand why it happened, how it is treated, and
what you can do to help. But you also need to take care of yourself. Changes in
family life are stressful, and taking care of yourself will make it easier to
You may feel helpless, but there
are many things you can do. Nobody expects you to have all the answers.
Here are ways you can help:
Your family member may not want your help. If this
happens, keep in mind that withdrawal can be a symptom of PTSD. A person who
withdraws may not feel like talking, taking part in group activities, or being
around other people. Give your loved one space, but tell him or her that you
will always be ready to help.
Your family member may feel angry about many things. Anger is a normal
reaction to trauma, but it can hurt relationships and make it hard to think
clearly. Anger also can be frightening.
If anger leads to violent
behavior or abuse, it's dangerous. Go to a safe place and call for help right away. Make sure children are in a safe place as well.
It's hard to talk to someone who is angry. One thing
you can do is set up a time-out system. This helps you find a way to talk even
while angry. Here's one way to do this.
While you are taking a time-out, don't focus on how angry
you feel. Instead, think calmly about how you will talk things over and solve
After you come back:
You and your family
may have trouble talking about feelings, worries, and everyday problems. Here
are some ways to communicate better:
If your family is having a lot of trouble talking things
over, consider trying
family therapy. Family therapy is a type of counseling
that involves your whole family. A therapist helps you and your family
communicate, maintain good relationships, and cope with tough emotions.
During therapy, each person can talk about how a problem is affecting the
family. Family therapy can help family members understand and cope with PTSD.
Your health professional or a religious or social services
organization can help you find a family therapist who specializes in
Helping a person
with PTSD can be hard on you. You may have your own feelings of fear and anger
about the trauma. You may feel guilty because you wish your family member would
just forget his or her problems and get on with life. You may feel confused or
frustrated because your loved one has changed, and you may worry that your
family life will never get back to normal.
All of this can drain
you. It can affect your health and make it hard for you to help your loved one.
If you're not careful, you may get sick yourself, become depressed, or burn out
and stop helping your loved one.
To help yourself, you need to
take care of yourself and have other people help you.
difficult times, it is important to have people in your life who you can depend
on. These people are your support network. They can help you with everyday
jobs, like taking a child to school, or by giving you love and understanding.
You may get support from:
For more information, see the topic
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
January 9, 2013
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Jessica Hamblen, PhD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
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