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What Is the Best Way to Support a Loved One With PTSD?

When someone you love suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), it can feel overwhelming. The pain and ongoing suffering that one endures with PTSD can be heartbreaking to watch and can make one feel helpless at times. PTSD can change the way families live and grow together. You may feel scared, frustrated, and angry about what is happening to your family. A lot of the time, people feel confused because they just don’t understand what is happening to their loved one. These are all normal feelings for people who have family members with PTSD. 

Families need to learn about PTSD to help them understand what is happening and why their loved one is behaving in the manner that they are. By educating yourself about PTSD, you can help your loved one find the right treatment and learn how you can help them during triggering moments. While we want the best for our loved one who is struggling, we also need to take care of ourselves to help us cope with everything that is going on. 

What Is PTSD?

PTSD is considered a psychiatric disorder that occurs when a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. This could be a natural disaster, a major accident, war or combat, rape or sexual violence, or even a serious injury. It can occur to anyone of all ages, races, and socio-economic backgrounds. Approximately 3.5% of U.S. adults struggle with PTSD every year.

People with PTSD have intense and overwhelming thoughts related to their experience. They may relieve the event through flashbacks or nightmares and feelings of sadness, fear, and anger can surface when they least expect it. Individuals with PTSD may feel detached from other people and try to avoid situations, environments, or people that trigger flashbacks of the traumatic event. They may also have a strong negative reaction to loud noises or even human touch. PTSD can sometimes cause short-term memory loss and have long-term chronic psychological repercussions. 

What Can I Do to Help?

When you see them at their darkest hour, you may feel helpless, but there are many ways you can help them. You can not heal them or take away their pain, but here are a few ways that you can help:

  • Educate yourself about PTSD. Learn how it affects people to help you understand what your family member is going through. 
  • Listen to them. Don’t offer advice or tell them that you understand. If they are willing to talk to you, just listen. Some of the things they share with you can be hard to hear, but they are sharing their pain with you. As much as you want to help by giving advice, or opinions, refrain and just listen.
  • Be okay with them not wanting to share their feelings or trauma with you. This has nothing to do with how much they love or trust you, so avoid making it about you. 
  • Learn, anticipate, and help manage their triggers. This can help eliminate episodes in the future. If your loved one is triggered by large events, be okay with them sitting out of that big gathering. You can invite them, but let them know that it’s okay if they want to skip it. 
  • Encourage, but do not pressure, them. Physical exercise is always great for a person’s mental and physical well-being. Offer to go on walks, take a yoga class, or participate in an activity that they would like to indulge in. If they don’t want to go, don’t keep pressuring them to do it. They know their limits and you should respect them.
  • Be patient. Recovery is a long, unstable process that they are trying to maneuver through. The guilt they feel for making you feel bad is tremendous. They are trying, but the process takes time and often involves many setbacks. Try to stay positive and supportive.
  • Don’t forget to take care of yourself. We cannot be positive and supportive when we are emotionally or physically drained. The more you take care of yourself, the better you’ll be able to support your loved one. 
  • Expect and accept mixed feelings. You want the best for your loved one,and you want them to heal from their trauma, but some days are going to be tougher for you to help them. When these days arise, just remember that these negative feelings towards your family member do not mean that you don’t love them. 

Sometimes we all need a little bit of extra help. For those struggling with PTSD, assistance from a mental health professional can provide some relief they need. Veterans can reach out to the VA Hospital for assistance with their PTSD. If you are unsure of how to receive help for your loved one or yourself, reach out to RECO Intensive to learn how we can help assist you further. 


Watching your loved one struggle with the symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be heartbreaking and scary. We all want the best for the ones we love, but sometimes we lack the ability and knowledge to provide what is best for them. When someone is battling intense trauma that causes unexpected flashbacks or triggers, we may feel helpless. However, there are many small ways in which you can help your loved one during these hard times. You are not helpless. Your loved one needs you but they may need your help in ways you are just unfamiliar with. This is all normal for families who have a family member that struggles with PTSD. We want to help you help your loved one. Reach out to RECO Intensive today, so we can help prepare you to be a more effective support system for your family member. Call us (561) 464-6533.

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