Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be a
challenge for you and your family. Your family may find it hard to accept some
of the changes PTSD can bring to your life. By talking and supporting one
another, you and your family will be better prepared for these changes.
Your family is an important part of
your recovery. They can be there to listen and to help you through rough
It's also important that you help your family understand
PTSD. They may not always know how to respond when they see you hurting. They
may feel scared, sad, guilty, or even angry about your condition.
Talking about PTSD can help you and your family cope. Talk about your
symptoms and what triggers them. Discuss different treatments and how they can
help you recover. When you open up, your family can better understand what
you're going through.
can help. This is a type of counseling that involves your whole family. A
therapist can teach you how to work through problems and communicate
Talking with your kids about PTSD
kids about PTSD is important. They may not understand why you're feeling bad or
why you get angry sometimes. This can be scary for kids at any age. They also
may blame themselves for things that aren't their fault. Make sure your kids
understand that they aren't to blame for your PTSD.
with your kids about PTSD:
Be honest and listen to what they have to
Tell them it's okay to ask questions. Ask them how they're
feeling, and let them know that their concerns are important.
sure they feel safe, secure, and loved. They may be afraid that something bad
is going to happen.
Provide information about PTSD. Let them know
what it is, how you got it, and how you can recover.
good support system of friends outside your family. Get them involved in school
activities or youth programs in the community.
Don't promise that
your PTSD is going to go away soon. Instead, talk about how treatment can help
you feel better. It's okay if you don't have all the answers.
positive as you can. Your kids will notice how you react in difficult
situations, which can influence their reactions.
Things that suddenly remind you of your
traumatic event are called triggers. Triggers can bring up stressful feelings
or cause you to have flashbacks, which means you feel like you're reliving the
event all over again.
Trying to avoid triggers is a common
reaction. It's normal to stay away from things that cause you stress. Because
of this, you may feel like you can't do the things you used to enjoy. This may
be hard on you and your family.
Talk with your family about your
triggers. They need to know what causes you stress. By being aware of your
triggers, your family can help you find ways to cope with them.
Some common triggers include:
Places, social events, or even smells and sounds. For
example, smoke may trigger memories in someone who was hurt in a fire. Or a car
that backfires may remind a veteran of gunfire.
Being around others
who were involved in your traumatic event. This may happen when veterans have a
The anniversary of your traumatic event. Try to plan
enjoyable activities on and around the anniversary date. It may help to be with
friends or family.
Coping with holidays
Big holidays like Christmas
and New Year's can be stressful. The holidays can be a painful reminder of past
times when life seemed better. Big groups of family and friends are often part
of the holidays. This may be stressful because:
Groups tire you out or make you feel
You feel pressure to join family activities when
you're not up for it.
You feel like you have to act happy when
Your loved ones also might ask you questions about your
life or about PTSD. You may not feel comfortable answering these questions.
Keep in mind that your family may feel some of the same pressures.
You can cope with holiday stress by:
Setting limits. Don't join activities for longer than you
can handle. You can choose when you want to be a part of the
Taking breaks. Go for walks, or set aside a place where you
can be alone for a while. This can keep you from feeling
Getting plenty of rest. Take naps if you feel like
you're not getting enough sleep at night.
Talking with your family
about how you feel. Your family can help you. Be honest with them about your
Not drinking too much. Alcohol may make your symptoms worse
or cause you to have problems with your family.
For family members
you are the spouse or family member of someone with PTSD, here are some tips
for helping your loved one during the holidays:
Accept the mixed feelings your loved one may have about the
Respect and support your loved one's choices about being
involved in the celebration.
Plan ahead of time how you will cope
with stress. This may mean talking about how your loved one will answer
questions about PTSD, or deciding how long you will stay at a
Remember to take care of yourself. Do things for yourself to
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.