Friday, January 5, 2007

How can I help?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is not only hard for the trauma survivor, but oftentimes, for families and friends of the trauma survivor as well.

Here are some things you can do to support a trauma survivor suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:

1. Educate yourself: Educating yourself about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, its symptoms, causes, and treatments will go a long way in helping you support a trauma survivor. The more you understand about the condition, they better able you are to be supportive of your loved one.

2. Encourage the trauma survivor to seek help: As I mentioned in the post below, there are no "magic pills" to cure PTSD. The only way a trauma survivor can move forward in healing from a traumatic event is by exploring it in detail in counseling. Understandbly, your loved one will be afraid to go through this process. Reliving a traumatic event is not only tough, igoing through the process can bring up feelings of fear, anger, depression, helplessness, and hopelessness.

3. Show active support: If the trauma survivor decides to enter therapy, support him or her. It might be helpful to think of things you can do to support the individual. For instance, you can offer to sit in the waiting room while the individual is in therapy or to be available for support after the appointment. Alternatively, offer to spend quality time with the trauma survivor so that he or she knows he/she is cared about. Letting the trauma survivor know that you are available to listen is also a good idea.

4. Don't push: While it is a good idea to encourage the trauma survivor to seek professional help, it is not a good idea to try to force him/her to do so. Likewise, offer your ear to the trauma survivor, but don't try to coerce or force the individual to talk about the trauma if he/she doesn't want to.

5. Get help yourself: If you are having a hard time handling the trauma or the feelings surrounding it, you should seek therapy, regardless of whether or not the traumatized individual is.

6. Grounding: Individuals with PTSD often experience flashbacks, where one feels like he/she is going through the trauma all over again. It is important that you know some grounding techniques that you can teach the trauma survivor, if he or she is open to learning them. Here are some grounding techniques one can use in the midst of a flashback or panic attack:
-Stamp your feet on the floor
-Clap your hands
-Touch the things around you and name them out loud or look at the things around you and name them out loud
-Pet a pet
-Talk to a trusted person

All of these techniques help focus the mind on the here and now, rather than on the past.

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