PTSD – Helping Yourself and Others

How can I help a friend or relative who has PTSD?

If you know someone who may be experiencing PTSD, the first and most important thing you can do is to help him or her get the right diagnosis and treatment. You may need to help the person make an appointment and then visit the doctor together. Encourage the person to stay in treatment, or to seek different treatment if symptoms don’t get better after six to eight weeks.

To help a friend or relative, you can:

  • Offer emotional support, understanding, patience, and encouragement.
  • Learn about PTSD so you can understand what your friend is experiencing.
  • Listen carefully. Pay attention to your relative’s feelings and the situations that may trigger PTSD symptoms.
  • Share positive distractions such as walks, outings, and other activities.
  • Remind your friend or relative that, with time and treatment, he or she can get better.

Never ignore comments about death or wanting to die. Contact your friend’s or relative’s therapist or doctor for help or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or 911 in an emergency.

There are other types of treatment that can help as well. People with PTSD should talk about all treatment options with their mental health professional. Treatment should provide people with the skills to manage their symptoms and help them participate in activities that they enjoyed before developing PTSD.

How can I help myself?

It may be very hard to take that first step to help yourself. It is important to realize that although it may take some time, with treatment, you can get better.

To help yourself:

  • Talk with your doctor about treatment options.
  • Engage in mild physical activity or exercise to help reduce stress.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself.
  • Break up large tasks into small ones, set some priorities, and do what you can as you can.
  • Try to spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or relative.
  • Tell others about things that may trigger symptoms.
  • Expect your symptoms to improve gradually, not immediately.
  • Identify and seek out comforting situations, places, and people.

Reference: National Institute of Mental Health

Last updated May 10, 2017

This information is for general educational uses only. It may not apply to you and your personal medical needs. This information should not be used in place of a visit, call, consultation with or the advice of your physician or health care professional.

Communicate promptly with your physician or other health care professional with any health-related questions or concerns.

Be sure to follow specific instructions given to you by your physician or health care professional.

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