Caring For Someone With PTSD

A person living with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has their own unique challenges that, with professional help, can eventually be overcome. However, living with someone who suffers PTSD is also challenging, especially when the symptoms of PTSD may last for months and even years… But again, obtaining proper professional help can help make life better.

It’s important to first understand the symptoms associated with PTSD. As discussed in a previous post, the symptoms include:

  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Avoidance
  • Negative thoughts such as fear, shame, guilt and anger
  • General lack of interest in activities once previously enjoyed
  • Detachment from others
  • Reactive and arousal symptoms such as angry outbursts, reckless behavior and becoming easily startled
  • Problems with sleep, focus and concentration

There are a lot of symptoms a person with PTSD may exhibit… And the symptoms are often unpredictable. They negatively affect people around them, especially a spouse, significant other, children and other family members. For instance, a person with PTSD may have an angry outburst one day followed by avoidance the next. All the while, you (as the primary caregiver) are hoping that life will one day return to the “way things were.” Despite your best efforts to reach out, communicate and just be there for your loved one, it can seem like a losing battle. This is where professional may help you understand what to expect and coping strategies for you and your family.  

It Takes Time

PTSD is not a disorder that can be treated quickly with therapy or medications. It is more marathon than sprint… And without treatment, symptoms can last years. There is no short-term therapy solution for PTSD, and every patient is different in how they will react, the symptoms they present and how quickly they will recover.

For the person living with someone with PTSD, this period of time can be exhausting, stressful and filled with anxiety or uncertainty. However, you do not have to go it alone. The road to recovery is a long one… But armed with some initial strategies, learning how to live with someone with PTSD can help you and your family get through this difficult time.

PTSD Caregiver Burnout

People who are taking care of a loved one with PTSD may experience something called “caregiver burnout.” This term is used to describe someone feeling an unusual amount of stress in caring for another person. The phrase is usually used to describe loved ones who are caring of a person with cancer. But it can also be applied in the context of PSTD.

The following situations are often addressed in assessing caregiver burnout:

  • Feelings of increased frustration, irritation or anger over small or insignificant things
  • Your tolerance level is disappearing or gone
  • You are starting to raise your voice and then feel guilt or remorse afterwards
  • You are starting to avoid the loved one because just being around them is simply too difficult
  • You are experiencing increased anxiety, insomnia or depression
  • Your physical health is deteriorating
  • The family environment has become toxic and/or dysfunctional and you are contributing to it

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it may be best to reach out to a professional therapist and seek help. Caring for someone with PTSD does not have to be overwhelming. Below are some general things to consider.

General Tips To Avoid PTSD Caregiver Burnout

Be supportive… but don’t try to fix them

People experiencing PTSD are going through their own personal therapy and journey. It’s not a matter of saying things like “you’ll snap out of it” or “it just takes time.” If they are going to therapy, their therapist will help guide them. They will begin to open up and share their experiences at their own time. Don’t try to rush them.

Also, a person suffering from PTSD will often shy away from personal interactions. It’s important not to take their avoidance personally. If they say “no,” respect their decision for that one instance. But ask again—and again—in future instances. They may still say “no,” but they will appreciate that you continue to ask.

Communicate… even if they don’t want to

While people with PTSD may not engage in many social activities, life still goes on. Bills need to get paid, children must do homework, birthdays and holidays still pop up on the calendar, etc. It’s OK to ask them to help around the house and remind them about upcoming events. It’s also OK to tell them when you are feeling stressed and having a bad day yourself. It’s always best to address smaller problems sooner rather than later.  

Don’t try to force them to talk

Partners and family members feel frustrated and simply want to help their loved one get better. But this is not the time to push them to tell you what happened. The trauma may be so severe that they are not ready to talk… And there is little a family member can do to snap them out of it.

Try to maintain a routine

Having a routine is as much a benefit to you as it is to the person experiencing PTSD. Don’t overschedule every hour of the day… But daily routines such as breakfast, dinner and helping the kids with homework can help establish feelings of normalcy. Weekend plans such as grocery shopping, sports games and working out are great ways to spend time and delegate duties. Having a routine will help lessen the day-to-day stress of thinking about PTSD all the time. Remember the symptoms, though… Be prepared, because some days are better than others—and your loved one may wish to back out at the last minute. Don’t take it personally. Just try to respect that they are going through a process.

Take your own breaks

In life, everyone needs to recharge. Taking a break allows us all the chance to exhale. It can be with or without the loved one—and with or without the children. If you are the primary caregiver, maintaining your own sanity is key for success down the road. The last thing a person with PTSD needs is to have their primary caregiver become frustrated and burned out.

How We Can Help You?

Best Day Psychiatry and Counseling is here to help you have a better day and find a better way. We treat a wide range of psychiatric conditions for both children and adults. Contact us today, we’re ready to help:

Fayatteville: (910) 323-1543 Fuquay-Varina: (919) 567-0684 Raleigh: (919) 670-3939  Greenville: (252) 375-3322