There’s no general answer on how to correctly love someone who has severe PTSD, but I’ll bring up a few pointers that might help. It might seem like something easy to do, but it takes a very strong person to be partnered with someone who has PTSD, especially if you have PTSD or another mental illness.
If you didn’t already know, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event that the person either saw or went through. Common symptoms of PTSD include insomnia, nightmares (night terrors), panic attacks, and never-ending thoughts about what happened. Some people have mild PTSD, while others suffer from severe PTSD. People who suffer from PTSD can be triggered by certain smells, sounds, movies- really anything that can bring back memories.
I was diagnosed with PTSD when I was 21. My symptoms were never too severe, though I did have to go through years of therapy and it led to panic disorder. I have terrible symptoms that I still live with, but it was treatable. During my recovery, I ended up meeting a combat veteran with severe PTSD, and it completely changed the way that I knew how to take care of someone. It was a lot of work and a lot of communication, but my goal was to ease some of those intrusive thoughts.
It doesn’t matter if the person you love is your spouse, sibling, child, or parent; when you love someone who has PTSD, you need to change your mindset and take gentler approaches to even normal daily activities. By no means am I saying they are fragile- people who suffer from daily panic attacks and triggers are the strongest people I know. With that being said, sometimes you have to be their strength.
It’s important to learn their triggers. I think the worst mistake I ever made was taking him to a movie theater. Everything was too loud, there were WAY too many people, and we both ended up heading to the bathrooms where there were quietness and personal space. Specific everyday activities should be planned in advance.
Be there. Just simply be there for them. There will be really good days and there will be really bad days that are spent inside relaxing due to a night of unpleasant dreams and restlessness. One of the most important things is to just be there for the person you love and listen to them. Absolutely do NOT ask questions about what happened to them or what they went through. It’s not your place to bring up what happened to them in the past and more than likely they don’t want to relive it and talk about it. When and if they decide to open up to you about what happened, just listen and comfort.
As someone who has PTSD and also loves someone with PTSD, I’ve realized that everyone has different symptoms, triggers, and stress levels. I’ve had full-blown panic attacks in grocery stores, or I’ll wake up with them every now and then. I also had people in the past who didn’t understand my diagnosis and they would jump out and scare me, bring me to places that made me feel like I was going to pass out, or just simply be insensitive and say things like “it’s all in your head, you need to be happy.”
Be kind, gentle, loving, and supportive. It won’t always be easy, but your actions will provide peace.
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About The Author: Natalie is a published article writer who has traveled the world and now resides in a small town in Kentucky enjoying the outdoors and family.
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