ARTICLES, HEALTHY LIVING & WELL BEING. EATING DISORDERS, I NEED HELP: TEEN SUICIDE PREVENTION
When Someone You Love Has PTSD
For those who leave, never to return.
And those who return never to be the same.
Remembrance day is observed on November 11. On that day, we take the time to remember those who have sacrificed their lives for the freedom of their country. We recognize that our freedom has come at the cost of many, many lives.
However, sometimes the people we lost didn’t die.
Many of us have a loved one who has experienced a traumatic event, such as:
- Child abuse
- A physical attack
- Witnessing a gruesome scene
- Sexual assault
- A serious accident
- A natural disaster
All of these incidents and others can cause Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Another way these stress responses can develop is through repeated exposure to disturbing details of traumatic events (such as a telephone first responders, or police officers).
The non-physical scars of ASD and PTSD can be really easy to miss — unless you know the person they used to be.
Common symptoms of ASD & PTSD
The symptoms for ASD and PTSD look very similar — although they are different conditions. Both develop after trauma. However, ASD will develop within the first month and PTSD may take a while longer to become apparent. Additionally, ASD presents more as a ‘disconnection’. Like feeling in a daze, or having trouble remembering details of the traumatic event — not due to a head injury.
Other symptoms of ASD & PTSD include:
- Intrusive memories (reliving the event) and experiencing feelings of threat or fear like those felt during the traumatic event
- Avoiding talking about, thinking about, or anything that reminds them of the event
- Avoiding situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event
- Constantly experiencing negative thoughts, attitude, and mood
- Feeling negative towards themselves and others
- Loss of interest in activities and hobbies
- Feeling distant from family and friends
- Having trouble feeling positive emotions
- Hyperarousal (feeling keyed up)
- Feeling jittery or always on alert
- Always being on the lookout for danger
- Feeling excessive anger or irritability
- Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
As friends and family members, it is extremely difficult to watch your loved one struggle through these symptoms. It can be really difficult to know how to react to their changed behaviour.
Here are some common reactions:
Likely, you will feel sorry that they are suffering. This can be good, as you try to understand what your loved one is going through. However, make sure your sympathy doesn’t come across as condescending or “babying” — this may have the opposite effect that you intend.
It’s fairly common to resent the changes that are present in your loved one. The best way to combat these feelings is to properly educate yourself about the human response to trauma. It will help you understand that the person you love is still there and that they are just hurting.
You may find yourself avoiding the same things as your loved one – for fear of their reaction to those triggers. Perhaps you should try still engaging in those activities, but let your loved one stay home if they desire.
It’s completely normal to grieve. You can be sad that your loved one is going through so much pain. Just know, PTSD doesn’t have to last forever. With help, and the right coping strategies, things can and will get better.
You might feel guilty that you can’t help, or you might feel angry that they aren’t getting better quickly. Firstly, remember that you are not responsible for their happiness. These feelings are normal, and when you realize that, you will be better equipped to move past them.
Remember to put your mental and physical health first. For many people, their personal care starts to take a back seat when they are trying to cope with the illness of a loved one. Additionally, surround yourself with as much social support as you can.
Encourage them to get help
It’s critical that you monitor the behaviour of someone with ASD or PTSD. If they are exhibiting many of the symptoms, encourage them to get help.
Do not ignore comments or written notes about suicide. The risk increases if your loved one has attempted suicide before, has a friend or family member who died by suicide or has had a suicide in his or her unit.
There are many treatment options available for Stress Disorders — and having PTSD doesn’t have to end their quality of life or yours.
Eleanor Schulenberg wrote the perfect summary in her article “Remember Them, Even When They Are Back Home”
So this Remembrance Day, I will adorn my jacket with a poppy. But more than that, I want our veterans to feel that when they are home, we will embrace them back as different and changed and new. PTSD, depression, anxiety, or whatever may come home with them in their backpack of possessions, is ok. And we will welcome them back with open arms, regardless of whatever they may be afraid to unpack.
Let us stand up for our minute of silence but help them break their silence. Help them feel safe, and be compassionate because the trauma of war does not end when they return home.