Mental health awareness is not just crucial for those who are personally dealing with mental health issues but also for their friends, family, and loved ones. A person’s mental health struggle can profoundly impact the lives of those around them. Navigating these complexities can be challenging, exhausting, and, at times, overwhelming.
Nevertheless, loved ones’ support is priceless and can make a big difference in a person’s recovery. One such mental health condition that often places strain on relationships is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A common symptom of this disorder is the individual’s tendency to distance themselves from their loved ones.
PTSD and Its Impact on Relationships
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can occur after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. This could include war, natural disasters, major accidents, or personal assaults. The individual’s response to these events is characterized by strong, unsettling feelings and thoughts about their experience that persist long after the traumatic event has ended.
The National Center for PTSD estimates that 6% of Americans, or about 6 out of every 100, will at some point in their lives experience PTSD. While everyone is affected differently, common symptoms include intense anxiety, nightmares, flashbacks, and uncontrollable thoughts about the incident.
Exhibiting avoidance behaviors, such as avoiding people or places that trigger memories of the trauma or thoughts and emotions associated with the incident, is another common symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This avoidance can sometimes extend to pushing away friends and family, creating a strain on relationships.
The reasons behind this distancing can be multifaceted. Individuals with PTSD may feel that their loved ones cannot understand what they’re going through, leading to feelings of isolation. They might also be trying to protect their loved ones from their trauma or avoid triggering memories associated with their trauma.
Reacting effectively to a loved one who withdraws from you because of PTSD can be difficult. It calls for tolerance, comprehension, and compassion. It’s important to respect their space while also letting them know that you are there for them when they are ready.
Recognizing the Signs of PTSD
Recognizing the signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the first step toward understanding and helping your loved one. There are four categories into which PTSD symptoms can be divided:
These may manifest as uncontrollably recurring memories, unsettling dreams, or flashbacks to the traumatic incident. People may experience flashbacks that are so vivid that they feel as though they are seeing or reliving the traumatic event.
People who suffer from PTSD may steer clear of situations, people, places, activities, things, and activities that trigger upsetting memories. They might make an effort to forget about the traumatic experience, try not to think about it, and refuse to discuss what happened or their feelings about it.
Negative thoughts and feelings
These could include persistently held and skewed ideas about oneself or other people (such as “I am bad” or “No one can be trusted”), persistent terror, fear, rage, guilt, or shame, a marked decrease in interest in once-enjoyed activities, or a sense of being cut off from or distant from other people.
Arousal and reactive symptoms
These might manifest as being irritable and having angry outbursts; behaving recklessly or in a self-destructive manner; being overly vigilant or watchful; experiencing an exaggerated startle response; having difficulty concentrating; or having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
It’s important to note that, while these symptoms can be common after a traumatic event, they usually begin to lessen after a few weeks. If they persist for longer, it might indicate PTSD.
Navigating Around and Helping Someone with PTSD
It is important to approach the situation with patience, understanding, and empathy when supporting a loved one who is suffering from PTSD. Here’s a guide on how to help:
Step 1: Learn about PTSD
Before you can effectively assist someone with PTSD, you need to understand the disorder. This includes knowing the symptoms, causes, and treatments.
Step 2: Encourage Social Activities
Encourage the person you care about to participate in social activities and hobbies they enjoy. This can help them take their minds off their trauma and feel more connected with others.
Step 3: Promote Physical Activity
Exercise, especially rhythmic exercises like walking, running, or swimming, can help manage PTSD symptoms by reducing feelings of anxiety and improving mood.
Step 4: Open Communication
Maintain clear and open communication with your loved one. Ensure they know you’re available to talk whenever they’re ready, but don’t pressure them into discussing their trauma before they’re comfortable.
Step 5: Identify Signs of PTSD
If you notice symptoms of PTSD, gently bring this to their attention and express your concerns.
Step 6: Encourage Professional Help
If your loved one has not previously sought professional assistance, urge them to do so. If they feel comfortable, you could even go with them to appointments or assist with researching local therapists.
Step 7: Provide Practical Assistance
If your loved one is struggling with daily tasks, offer to help out. This could include things like helping with groceries or other errands.
Step 8: Build a Support Network
Enlist friends and family to create a community around your loved one. Together, you can plan activities and provide a strong support system.
Step 9: Check In Regularly
If they’re having difficulty, check in on them in a private and quiet space. Inquire whether they require assistance navigating the situation.
Remember, everyone’s experience with PTSD is unique, and there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach to support. The most important thing is to be patient, understanding, and consistent in your support.
The Influence of Support Networks in PTSD Recovery
Support networks around a person with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have a big effect on how well they heal. Having close friends and family can give someone with PTSD a safe place to be and a sense of security, which are both very important.
Applying these ideas to your relationships will allow you to offer useful, caring support that will help them on their way to healing. Remember that healing from PTSD is not a straight-line process, but a trip with ups and downs. You will need to be patient and consistent. Your understanding and support can make a big difference in this journey by helping your loved one take back control and get closer to getting better.