When a loved one experiences a trauma, the aftermath can affect both the person who experienced it and family and friends. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an issue that can permeate the lives of those touched directly or indirectly by a traumatic event. Family members especially are often hit hard by seeing a loved one’s suffering.
Quick Facts About PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder differs from other forms of trauma in such that it instigates biological, hormonal, and emotional changes that can last for months, years, or a whole lifetime. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 10 percent of women and 5 percent of men are likely to experience PTSD at some point in their lifetimes.
Usually the result of a military experience, violent or sexual attack, natural disaster, or life-threatening accident, PTSD can permanently affect the brain and body in ways that don’t manifest until much later after the event has occurred. Substance abuse, depression, aggression, and social isolation are just some of the few responses to PTSD.
When a Loved One Experiences PTSD
A family member of one suffering from PTSD can go through a myriad of emotions: shame, guilt, anger, or isolation. In fact, the emotional responses family members can experience are often similar to those the trauma sufferer experiences as well, although not quite in the same way.
Family therapy for PTSD focuses primarily on the relationships between the trauma survivor and the family members. Often, families will seek out professional treatment when a person with PTSD begins to exhibit negative symptoms of trauma such as substance or alcohol abuse. Tenants of this kind of therapy emphasize clear communication that allows for all parties to safely express emotions. Sometimes family members can offer too much or too little of one emotion. Sympathy, for example, can be great in small doses but coddling a trauma survivor may not encourage their own feelings of strength, self-esteem, or capability.
If you’re considering family therapy for PTSD, talk to a professional here at The Oaks at La Paloma. We have experienced counselors and clinicians who are knowledgeable in PTSD and how to treat it. We can work with your family to discover new ways to cope with tragedy and get through this tough time.
If you’re thinking about family therapy for PTSD, here are some tips to get you on your way.
- Be patient. Know that the loved one suffering trauma may be having difficulties expressing emotions or may still be processing the event. Be understanding and open to communication.
- Learn more about PTSD. Knowledge is power. Learn about the signs, symptoms, and treatment options for PTSD to familiarize yourself with what your loved one is going through.
- Don’t pressure the person to share his/her feelings. If your loved one is having trouble talking about the event, don’t pressure them. Let him/her take time and help them to feel comfortable talking when the time is right.
- Take care of yourself. Maintain your daily routines and keep yourself healthy. If you aren’t healthy, you won’t be able to help the person you love.
- Join a support group. Family members of the trauma survivor need help too. Join a support group and share your experiences with others who have been in the same position. You can learn valuable coping strategies and see this event from a new perspective.
It’s important to remember that recovering from PTSD is a gradual process; it doesn’t happen overnight. Your family member needs your support and love. If you’re reading this, you’re already doing the right thing by trying to learn more about what he or she is going through. Call us here at The Oaks at La Paloma today. We can help lift your burden and provide you with the assistance you need.