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How to Help Someone with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

A young woman with an upset look on her face talks to a therapist.
It is possible to recover from post-traumatic stress disorder—and feel better.


They say that time heals all wounds.

That may be true in some cases, but when it comes to post-traumatic stress disorder, it’s definitely better to seek help. But how exactly can you help someone with PTSD, especially if they are resistant to getting help? First, let’s take a closer look at PTSD, which became an official diagnosis in 1980.

PTSD is defined as a serious condition that can develop after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened. It spurs feelings of fear, helplessness and horror.

Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, nightmares, hopelessness, anxiety, difficulty experiencing pleasure and loss of interest in life.

It’s easy to see how someone experiencing those feelings would turn to drugs or alcohol to escape and, indeed, statistics show that people with PTSD are two to four times more likely to battle addiction than their peers.

But self-medicating with drugs or alcohol isn’t a solution—and can lead to much bigger problems.

The good news is that there are ways you can help your loved one learn how to cope with PTSD, and there are also effective treatments available if needed.

Supporting a Loved One with PTSD

It’s not easy to help a loved one who is suffering from PTSD. In fact, it can be downright heartbreaking when you see your loved one suffering from nightmares, flashbacks and eventually, addiction.

While you cannot cure PTSD for your loved one, there are some ways you can help:

  • Provide love and support. Those suffering from trauma and addiction oftentimes push family and friends away. If your loved one lashes out, remind yourself not to take it personally and continue providing support (while respecting your loved one’s boundaries).
  • Listen if they want to talk. Those suffering from PTSD find it difficult to talk about their trauma. Just let your loved one know you’re willing to listen and be that shoulder to cry if they need it.
  • Do regular, every day things with your loved one to keep them social. It’s not uncommon for someone with PTSD to avoid social interactions. This can lead to feelings of isolation and leaning on drugs or alcohol to cope. Keep your loved one engaged by exercising, shopping, hanging out with friends and other normal activities they used to love.
  • Learn your loved one’s triggers. Do specific sounds or places send your loved one into a panic attack? Take some time to talk to observe your loved one and talk to them about their triggers. If and when you encounter a trigger, remind them that they’re just having a flashback and help them take slow, calm breaths to calm down and get through it.

PTSD isn’t something your loved one can overcome on their own, especially when addiction is in the picture. Luckily, there are treatments that can help free your loved one from both.

Treatment for PTSD

It’s estimated that about 7 to 8 percent of the population will deal with PTSD at some point in their lives. Given how life changing the condition can be, it’s important for people to know that help is available.

Here are the two most common treatments:

  • Psychotherapy. One especially helpful type is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This can involve helping people control their fear by gradually exposing them to the trauma in a safe and controlled way.
  • Medications. The most common medication is anti-depressants, which can help control feelings such as sadness, worry and anger. Medication is often prescribed in conjunction with psychotherapy.

In addition to the above, this is a time to treat yourself well. Get enough sleep, get some exercise and eat well. Confide in trusted family and friends and talk through your feelings with them. Lastly, expect your symptoms to improve, but also realize that it will take time.

Alcohol and Drug Addiction Rehab in Denver

The Raleigh House is a residential treatment center located in Denver that believes addiction isn’t just a physical problem. Our master’s level trained therapists get to the root cause of addiction and will help you develop a strategy to manage and enjoy life without drugs or alcohol. Fill out our form or contact us today to learn more about our 90-day drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs.

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