(It is not necessary to have all symptoms to indicate PTSD)
After a serious trauma (in childhood or as an adult) hidden symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress can plague victims for years. Many sufferers can’t discuss these life-changing symptoms unless offered a safe environment in which to discuss them.
- Re-experiencing the trauma, flashbacks as though it was happening all over again;
- Increased anxiety and low frustration tolerance;
- Intrusive disturbing thoughts of the trauma;
- Nightmares or other sleep disturbances;
- Emotional distress when reminded of the trauma;
- Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event (e.g. pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating)
- Avoiding activities, or places that remind one of the trauma;
- Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma;
- Loss of interest in activities and life in general, feeling detached from others and emotionally numb;
- Sense of a limited future, depression, hopelessness;
- Irritability or outbursts of anger;
- Difficulty concentrating, hyper-vigilance;
- Feeling jumpy or easily startled;
- Anger, irritability, guilt, shame, or self-blame, survivor guilt;
- Substance abuse;
- Feelings of mistrust and betrayal;
- Suicidal thoughts;
- Feeling alienated and alone;
- Physical aches and pains.
Traumatic events that can lead to PTSD
Serious accident, war, childhood abuse/neglect, natural disaster, sudden death of a loved one, rape, assault, kidnapping, sexual abuse, terrifying emotional abuse, witnessing a violent incident, or any shattering event that leaves you feeling trapped, helpless and hopeless.
Things you can do for someone you care about with PTSD
- Compliment their courage.
- Be respectful of anniversaries of incidences, losses, etc.
- Don’t take their anger personally. Anger is always a protective emotion for some underlying fear.
- Listen respectfully to redundant stories. It’s one of the most precious gifts you can give.
- Be kind. Don’t try to “educate” them about why they should feel differently or that their feelings are out of proportion to any current circumstances. Never say, “You should be over it”.
- Remember, you may be oblivious to triggers that set off their flashbacks or painful memories. You did not survive the details of their trauma and the accompanying surrounding stimuli.
- Never miss the opportunity to keep your mouth closed when you are tempted to judge.
- Always create the opportunity to tell your loved one how lucky you feel to have them in your life.
- Offer to participate in life-style changes, like healthy eating and exercise with them.
Books for you to read about PTSD
Shock Waves: A Practical Guide to Living with a Loved One’s PTSD, by Orange
When Someone You Love Suffers from Posttraumatic Stress: What to Expect and What You Can Do, by Zayfert, DeViva
The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Relationship: How to Support Your Partner and Keep Your Relationship Healthy…by England
Supporting Children with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Practical Guide for Teachers and Professionals, by Kinchin and Brown
When Someone You Love is Depressed: How to Help Your Loved One Without Losing Yourself, by Epstein Rosen and Francisco
How You Can Survive When They’re Depressed: Living and Coping with Depression Fallout, by Sheffield, Wallace, Klein
I Am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help! How to Help Someone with Mental Illness Accept Treatment, by Amador
When Someone You Love Has a Mental Illness, by Woolis
Healing Together: A Couple’s Guide to Coping with Trauma and Post-traumatic Stress, by Phillips, Kane