Most think of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, as something that only happens to veterans and soldiers coming back from war. Soldiers do often suffer from PTSD, with somewhere between 10 and 30 percent of war veterans experiencing PTSD depending on which war or combat situation they were a part of, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. PTSD is a mental health disorder affecting many other people as well; it’s most common in those who have witnessed or been the victim of a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, terrorist attack, violent crime, personal assault or serious accident.
As an anxiety disorder, PTSD can often be caused by a near-death experience or witnessing life-threatening events, and it decreases a person’s ability to function and their overall quality of life. The National Alliance on Mental Illnesses estimates that about 10 percent of women and five percent of men in America will suffer from PTSD in their lifetime.
Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of PTSD
Most people will experience an emotional shock after a traumatic event that lasts a few days or even a few weeks. When it goes beyond this and symptoms don’t ease over time, it could be PTSD. The first step toward treating and coping with PTSD is being able to recognize the symptoms and signs related to the disorder.
Symptoms of PTSD include:
- Avoidance of anything associated with the trauma
- Intrusive memories and thoughts of the event
- Memory loss surrounding the trauma
- Physical reactions like muscle tension, nausea, rapid breathing, pounding heart and sweating when reminded of the event
- Emotional numbness
- Loss of interest in things that used to be enjoyable before
- Trouble sleeping
- Outbursts of anger
- Trouble concentrating or focusing
- Feelings of agitation
- Guilt and/or shame
- Relationship issues
PTSD affects everyone differently but most will suffer from three main types of symptoms: arousal, re-experiencing, and avoidance. There are a host of emotions that swirl within someone suffering from PTSD. As a family member, one of the best things you can do is just be present. Understand that these feelings are not directed at you, and be patient with your loved one.
Some suffering from PTSD may struggle with denial. Many sufferers feel isolated and emotionally numb, and they may not want to talk about the trauma or anything related to it. Don’t give up. Attending therapy together is a great option to aid the recovery process.
Family Therapy and Keeping the Family Together
While individual therapy and even medication, in some cases, are important to help someone cope with PTSD symptoms, family therapy can be important in helping to maintain relationships. Family therapy helps the whole family better understand the emotions and triggers of PTSD.
This therapy provides an open and honest forum where everyone is safe and can better understand each other and how they are all feeling. Learning how to manage the difficult emotions associated the disorder can keep the lines of communication open. Family therapy can also be a useful tool for helping to keep families together and work together through the recovery process.
How to Stay Strong
It is important to understand that when a family member suffers from PTSD, the whole family suffers together. It is vital to remember that you and your feelings are important too.
- Listen and be patient, but also don’t be afraid to take a break and take time for yourself and decompress.
- Be a safe place they can turn to without being a doormat for their anger.
- Don’t try to rush the process; recovery takes time.
- Keep reaching out even if it feels like your words fall on deaf ears; know you are being heard.
- Be present; let them know they are not alone even though they may feel isolated. Your presence is important to them.
- Learn about the disorder; the more you know, the better you can understand the process.
Here at Black Bear Lodge, we work with families in an effort to help everyone affected by PTSD. We offer specialized plans suitable for each unique situation, and our skilled professionals work to find the best treatment options for you and your loved one. Call us today for more information.