Helping A Loved One with PTSD

Helping a Loved One with PTSD

Published on March 20, 2020 by First Responder Wellness

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a psychiatric condition that affects those who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Some causes of PTSD include child abuse, a serious accident, assault, natural disaster, or exposure to severe violence.

Having a loved one with PTSD can be painful and frustrating, and many spouses and family members of those who struggle with this condition have a hard time navigating their new normal.

Understanding PTSD and how best you can support your loved one can help take the pressure off the situation and move the entire family towards a place of healing and mutual understanding.

Symptoms of PTSD

The first step in helping a loved one with PTSD is to understand the condition and the symptoms it may cause. PTSD is a very real disorder that is marked by changes in the brain.

These changes can cause an imbalance that may lead to your loved one behaving differently, having a hard time coping with stress, reacting in a way that seems extreme, and generally having a hard time enjoying life. PTSD often causes flashbacks of the traumatic incident, which can be disturbing and interfere with your loved one’s ability to function.

During a flashback, people may feel as if they are reliving the experience, or seeing it play out in front of them.  Additionally, people with PTSD may cycle through various negative emotions such as sadness, fear, anger, and extreme anxiety.

Individuals with PTSD often avoid people, places, and circumstances that remind them of their trauma, even if the connection doesn’t make sense to those around them. Because PTSD can make it hard to connect with others or be emotionally vulnerable, those who struggle with this condition may have a hard time maintaining healthy relationships.

People who suffer from PTSD may also have issues with self-esteem and be bothered by constant negative thoughts about themselves. They may blame themselves for their trauma or believe that they somehow deserve what they endured.

In addition to beating themselves up, they may also lash out in anger at their loved ones. It is common for people with PTSD to engage in self-destructive behavior such as substance abuse, which may lead to further erratic behavior and an ongoing battle with addiction.

Providing Support

Once you understand PTSD and how it is affecting someone you love, you will likely begin to wonder how you can best support them while they are struggling. It is important to be open and receptive if your loved one wants to talk about what they are going through, but it is also crucial to refrain from pressuring them to open up.

Talking about their trauma may seem like they are reliving it, and it is up to them to decide when they would like to share those painful memories. In the meantime, sometimes simply being present for your loved one can be the best way to be there for them in their time of need. Spend time hanging out, doing something you both enjoy.

It is important to help your loved one achieve as much normalcy as possible in their lives. This may mean encouraging them to spend time with friends or pursue hobbies and interests they enjoy. You may also want to encourage them to participate in additional healthy activities such as exercising or creative pursuits and offer to join them if they would like some company.

While it is important to encourage healthy behaviors, it is equally important to refrain from pushing your loved one to do too much. Let them take the lead when it comes to teaching you how to best provide support.

Sometimes, putting too much pressure on them to participate in excess activities and social engagements may cause stress and exacerbate the issue. Meanwhile, it is important to also take good care of yourself when providing support for anyone dealing with mental health issues.

You may begin to feel frustrated, drained, and discouraged, while your loved one is struggling with PTSD. You can remain strong for them by paying attention to your mental health and acknowledging your limitations. Additionally, be sure not to enable destructive behavior, or allow your loved one’s condition to become an excuse for any kind of maltreatment or abuse.

While your loved one is learning to manage the symptoms of their PTSD, it is important to discourage unhealthy coping behaviors such as substance and alcohol abuse. Your loved one may feel that they deserve to drink or use drugs to ease their pain, but in reality, substance abuse only leads to worsened mental health and the likelihood of addiction.

For those who are struggling with PTSD and a substance use disorder, it is important to seek professional treatment from experts capable of providing help for those with co-occurring disorders.


The First Responders Treatment Program at Simple Recovery uses trauma-informed strategies to cater to the unique needs of law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental illnesses.  We recognize that first responders encounter job-specific barriers and obstacles that come with the culture of their careers, and that existing stigma may make seeking help for addiction and mental health issues especially difficult.

Addiction does not have to mean the end of your career or a lifetime of struggling with your health and relationships.  By taking a holistic approach to treatment and addressing the underlying causes of addiction, Simple Recovery makes it possible for first responders to regain control of every aspect of their wellbeing.

First responders dedicate their lives to protecting their community, and at Simple Recovery’s First Responder Treatment Program, we believe in dedicating our time and expertise to helping these compassionate individuals find a path to lasting sobriety and mental wellness. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call us now at 888-743-0490.