Living With a Loved One’s PTSD

Nightmares. Rage. Addictions. Avoidance behaviors. Paranoia. Hyper-vigilance.

These symptoms are the everyday realities of living with a loved one who has PTSD. For family members and friends who don’t have PTSD, it can be difficult to understand. PTSD symptoms can be triggered by a wide variety of things: sounds, situations, smells, even common words and phrases in everyday conversation. Family members and friends often trigger symptoms unknowingly, and find themselves receiving extreme anger and animosity with no idea why. Seemingly “normal” activities produce extreme anxiety and discomfort for someone with PTSD, which is confusing to those who have never experienced trauma.

So how does one cope with a loved one’s PTSD symptoms? How can one show compassion and still be physically and emotionally safe themselves? It can be a delicate balance. For starters, always always remember that the person is filtering everything through a PTSD-induced lens. To them, nothing is as simple, safe, and straight-forward as it seems to you. Everything is a potential threat. You can minimize the threat by preparing them ahead of time- scope out the environment, note important features like restrooms and escape routes, and be sure to secure seating in a corner or “back row” where no one can “sneak up” from behind. Always speak in a calm, low, controlled voice even when upset or angry. This will diffuse the possibility of an angry response. If violence or night terrors are an issue, consider learning some self-defense techniques and being careful not to turn your back on the person, even when sleeping. Though most PTSD sufferers would NEVER hurt their families or friends on purpose, if they slip into a dissociative fugue state or have violent nightmares and night terrors, they can become dangerously violent.

The most important thing to remember when dealing with a loved one’s PTSD is to remain loving and compassionate, always. Not always the easiest thing to do, compassion goes a long way to helping heal PTSD. Feeling that someone understands, or is at least trying to understand, helps the sufferer feel a little less “crazy.”
PTSD is real. It is debilitating. It is difficult. And it can be overcome.

For more help dealing with PTSD, watch for the August 2017 release of “Seeking God’s Healing of PTSD,” a Bible study and workbook.