Ways for families to cope/deal with a family member that has PTSD

When someone has PTSD, it isn’t just them who suffer. Their families are often the ones hardest hit by this affliction. PTSD symptoms often cause a person to act erratically, making it difficult for family members to understand what, exactly, is happening.

So, what can family members do to cope and deal with someone in their lives with PTSD?

Educate yourself

For starters, the most dangerous demons are the ones you don’t know about. You should strive to learn as much about PTSD and how it affects people as you can.

The more you know about it, the better you and your family can handle it.

Be a support system

Offer to go to the doctor with your family member. In fact, it’s a good idea to keep track of all his or her appointments. Also, be a good listener, even if that means listening to silence. Just knowing you’re there if and when they’re ready can be a tremendous lift for anyone suffering with PTSD.

Encourage activities

Exercise is an incredible source of health, in both the mind and body. Offer to go for a walk, or a bike ride, or any other physical activity.

In the end, it’s important to remember that your family member may not want your help. If your offers of support are rebuffed, keep in mind that withdrawal can be a symptom of PTSD. Give your loved one space, but tell him or her that you’re always there, no matter what.

Dealing with anger or violent behavior from a family member with PTSD

Anger is a normal reaction to trauma; that being said, it can wreak havoc on relationships. If your family member’s anger leads to violent behavior, then you must go to safe place or call for help.

Trying to reason with an angry person is next to impossible. One thing you could try is to establish a time-out system, so that if anger does come to fruition, you have something to turn to to foster communication (and ensure safety).

Here’s one way to establish this type of system:

  • Agree that either person involved in an argument can call timeout
  • Agree that when timeout is called, discussion must stop
  • Choose a signal to signify “timeout”. This could be a word, or a hand signal
  • Agree to tell one another where you’ll be and what you’ll be doing during your timeout, as well as when you’ll be back (this is important; don’t just walk away)

So, what do you do during this timeout?

For starters, try not to focus on your anger. Rather, try to figure out how you’ll talk things over and solve the problem at hand.

When you do return to confront each other:

  • Take turns talking about solutions and avoid interrupting
  • Use “I statements” such as “I feel” or “I think”, and avoid using “you” statements
  • Don’t be critical of the other person’s ideas
  • Agree on a solution that you’ll use


Addressing PTSD in your family with communication

One of the best ways to cope with PTSD is through effective communication. But what does this look like?

  1. Be clear and concise
  2. Be positive and avoid blame
  3. Be a good listener
  4. Express yourself in words, not just body language
  5. Help your family member with PTSD put their feelings into words
  6. Ask how you can help
  7. Avoid giving advice unless you’re specifically asked

If you and your family discover that you’re having a hard time talking, then we encourage you to test out family therapy. A family therapist can help your family communicate, foster better relationships, and cope with challenging situations and emotions.