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What to Say and What Not to Say to Someone with PTSD

A woman struggling with PTSD with her face in her hands.
Learn what to say and what not to say to your loved one struggling with PTSD.

PTSD is similar to the instability of a sandcastle on the beach. One moment everything is fine, then suddenly the tide rushes in to erode the foundation. When your loved one is struggling with PTSD, you want to be there to help them through the ebbs and flows of their trauma. The question is, how can you connect with them?

PTSD can cause nightmares, stressful flashbacks and paralyzing fear – all symptoms that can make daily life difficult. By knowing the right way to communicate, you can help your spouse, parent, child or friend cope with their trauma without triggering additional stress. Learn what to say and what not to say to your loved one with PTSD by reading our tips below.

What to Say to Your Loved One with PTSD

Be Patient and Don’t Pressure Them

First and foremost, let them know you’re here when they’re ready to share. Even briefly talking about their trauma can make their symptoms worse, which is why it’s important for you to be patient when communicating with them.

Remember that your loved one needs to feel comfortable before they share their feelings and experiences with you. Remind them they’re in control of when and what they share with you. This will empower them and give them peace of mind about opening up to you.

Do More Listening Than Talking

It’s common for people struggling with PTSD to feel isolated. Their trauma may convince them that no one will be able to understand their situation. When you’re talking to your loved one, do your best to practice active listening. Resist talking to them about your own experiences to relate and instead try to let them do 80 percent of the talking. When you do get an opportunity to speak, use it to ask clarifying questions and remind them that you’re listening and are here as support.

Ask about Their Triggers

Everyday experiences, like hearing a car horn go off in traffic, can be a trigger for those struggling with trauma. When your loved one is ready to talk, ask them about their triggers. It’s important to remember that their triggers might sound ordinary to you, so don’t discount or criticize anything they share. By learning what their triggers are, you’ll be able to help them avoid stressful situations.

What Not to Say to Your Loved One with PTSD

Given how stressful and difficult PTSD is to manage, you need to make sure your communication is empathetic and supportive. The last thing you want is for them to feel judged or at fault for what they’re going through.

When talking to someone with PTSD, avoid the following:

  • Telling Them to “Get Over It”: People with PTSD want to move on from their trauma. Telling them to “feel better” or “get over it” will actually do more harm than good. These sayings can reinforce your loved one’s false belief that the stress they feel is their fault.
  • Saying “That Was So Long Ago”: Even though the traumatic events are no longer happening, they still relive them. The flashbacks and nightmares are daily reminders of what they went through. No matter when the traumatic event took place, it’s still real for those struggling with PTSD.
  • Saying “People Have Been Through Worse”: It might be your first instinct to say this phrase. After all, comparing a situation to another can be therapeutic for some people. But to your loved one with PTSD, it doesn’t make their experience any less traumatizing. Instead of saying this, remind them of how strong they are.

The Raleigh House Can Help Your Loved One Heal from PTSD

At The Raleigh House, we know how hard it can be to live with PTSD. Our mental health treatment center offers an “east to west” approach to treatment that uses both evidence-based and experiential therapies. With activities like group therapy and rock climbing, we can help your loved one address their trauma and learn how to manage their triggers in a healthy way.

Your loved one has the potential to overcome their trauma, and they don’t have to do it alone. Contact our admissions team today to discover details about the personalized support we can provide.

Call Now: 720-891-4657

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