Help your loved one who is having a PTSD episode

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? It is when someone has experienced, witnessed, or have been confronted with an event that involves actual or threatened death or injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others. It involves responses of intense fear, horror, and helplessness. Any traumatic event can cause PTSD or PTSD-like symptoms such as a physical assault, rape, a serious accident, shooting/stabbing, sudden unexpected death of a loved one, natural disaster, or terrorist attack, just to mention a few. If someone you know is experiencing a PTSD episode, keep this advice in mind to help them.


Do talk

It is important to talk to your loved one if they are showing symptoms of PTSD. Let them know you care and want to listen to them. Talking lets your loved one know they are not alone. Please remember to just listen and not add your opinions of what they should be thinking or feeling. Also, remember what they’ve been through was traumatic, and hearing it could make you uneasy.

Do tell your loved one to take it easy

It is important to remember that the symptoms your loved one is experiencing are real and it is important to not be hard on yourself or them. People who are experiencing PTSD-like symptoms have flashbacks and nightmares of the event, and you should encourage them to take care of themselves with eating balanced meals, sleeping, and trying to keep a normal routine in their life.

Do understand the symptoms of PTSD

It is important to get an understanding of the symptoms. Symptoms may include some or all of the following: difficulty concentrating, nightmares, other sleep disturbances, irritability, depression, anxiety, worried, guilty, flashbacks, the feeling of numbness, upsetting thoughts of the trauma, physical responses (sweating, increased heart rate, etc), and thoughts of suicide. These are just some of the symptoms and not an extensive list. Substance abuse is also common in people who have been diagnosed with PTSD.

Do get evaluated by a medical health professional

PTSD is treated through psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of both. It is important to get help immediately if your loved one is experiencing PTSD. Research professionals in your area and call them for a phone consultation and an appointment. Do remember if your loved one is having thoughts of suicide that it is an emergency and needs to be treated as such, which means you should take your loved one to the nearest emergency room. Individual treatment, group therapy, and support groups are offered in most cities.

Do remember that the time and treatment of symptoms will get better

With time and treatment, symptoms do get better and anyone with PTSD can continue onwards with their lives, but getting treatment is of the utmost importance. Healing will take time, but the important thing to remember is to take it slow and day by day. Remind yourself everyday that it will get better.


Do not ever ignore the symptoms of PTSD

Symptoms of PTSD are real and serious. Many feel a loss of control and feel hopeless, which may lead to thoughts of suicide. These types of feelings should always be taken seriously and addressed right away by taking your loved one to the nearest emergency room.

Do not blame yourself

It will be difficult to hear the things your loved one has to say, never blame yourself for not being able to ‘fix’ your loved one. Keep offering your love and reassurance to them and make sure you take care of yourself as well.

Do not ever think the person will just snap out of it

Symptoms of PTSD are real and serious. A person cannot snap out of a traumatic event. And it will be important to remind yourself and them of this. Assure your loved one that experiencing what they are is not a sign of weakness.

Do not get discouraged

Continue to listen and be supportive. Make suggestions and not demands; your loved one is already going through a lot and the last thing they need is a list of demands. It will be difficult some days, but don’t get discouraged, continue to provide reassurance and keep loving them.

Do not judge

Please do not criticize your loved ones choices or decisions, no matter how bad you think they are or were. All they need is your support at this time. Don’t offer advice, just listen and be supportive.

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PTSD can occur following a traumatic event. PTSD develops differently in people and one may not experience all of the symptoms. The symptoms can occur immediately, gradually, or over a period of time. If you suspect that your loved one has PTSD or symptoms of PTSD, it is vital that you get professional help right away.

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Photo Credits: Homecoming at Fort Hood by Flickr: The U.S. Army; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Dr. Vicki BolinaLicensed Psychologist

You can enter psychotherapy for a variety of reasons, all of which I can help you through - reduce emotional distress in order to regain a sense of fulfillment in life and/or restore the ability to function in daily activities, improve relations...

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