How to Support Someone with PTSD

A soldier in military uniform kneeling in prayer.
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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. It can profoundly affect a person’s life, making everyday activities and relationships challenging. Supporting someone with PTSD requires patience, understanding and a willingness to learn about the condition. Here’s how you can provide meaningful support to a loved one dealing with PTSD.

Understanding PTSD

PTSD is a disorder that may develop after exposure to a traumatic event, such as combat, assault, disaster or severe accidents. Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

It’s important to know that everyone handles trauma differently. It’s normal to feel distressed after a traumatic event, but only some people go on to develop PTSD. Whether or not PTSD develops is based on many factors, including a person’s genetic makeup. This explains why one person develops PTSD and another one does not, even though they went through the same experience.

The common symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Re-experiencing: Flashbacks, nightmares and intrusive thoughts.
  • Avoidance: Avoiding places, people and activities that are reminders of the trauma.
  • Negative Changes in Mood and Cognition: Feelings of detachment, negative beliefs about oneself or the world and memory problems.
  • Hyperarousal: Irritability, difficulty sleeping, hypervigilance and being easily startled.

How to Support Someone with PTSD

Living with PTSD is emotionally and physically draining. Being a source of support is a wonderful way to show your loved one that they can get better. Here are some ways you can support someone with trauma.

Educate Yourself About PTSD

Take some time to learn about PTSD, its symptoms and its effects. Knowledge is power, and understanding what your loved one is going through can help you offer better support. It is not their fault, and telling them to “suck it up” or “get stronger” will not help them. They must work through the trauma. Be sure to use reliable sources such as the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the American Psychological Association (APA) or PTSD-specific organizations like the National Center for PTSD.

Listen and Communicate

Encourage your loved one to talk about their feelings without pressure. Be an active listener, validating their emotions and experiences. Refrain from making judgmental or dismissive comments. Instead, acknowledge their feelings and show understanding. By doing this, you also keep the lines of communication open. People are more willing to share when they know they are not being judged!

Provide Emotional Support

Recovery from PTSD is a long process with ups and downs. Be patient and understanding, offering consistent support. Reassure your loved one that they are not alone and that their feelings are valid. Encourage them to seek professional help if they haven’t already. Remember not to push them to talk or participate in activities they are not comfortable with. Allow them to progress at their own pace.

Encourage Professional Help

While being of support is important, helping someone with PTSD is not up to you alone. Encourage your loved one to seek therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) or other evidence-based treatments. Some individuals with PTSD even benefit from medication. You can also suggest joining a support group for people with PTSD. Sharing experiences with others who understand can be very therapeutic.

Create a Safe Environment

People who have experienced trauma often struggle with safety and stability. Help create a sense of this at home. This can be achieved by maintaining routines and being a reliable presence. Also, try to minimize stressors in their environment. This may include avoiding loud noises, sudden surprises or other triggers that can provoke PTSD symptoms.

Encourage Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Encourage regular physical activity, which can help reduce anxiety and improve mood. Plus, it’s nice to get out in the fresh air and sun—you can even turn physical activity into an enjoyable activity for both you and your loved one. Promote a balanced diet as well, as good nutrition can positively impact mental health. This may involve growing some of your own fruits and vegetables and cooking most of your meals. Finally, help your loved one establish good sleep hygiene practices to improve sleep quality.

Practice Self-Care

Supporting someone with PTSD can be emotionally taxing. Ensure you are also taking care of your own mental and physical health. You can’t help someone if you’re overwhelmed and stressed! Consider joining a support group for friends and family of individuals with PTSD. It can feel liberating to share your challenges with others while gaining insight from their experiences. It’s also important to set boundaries to prevent burnout.


Supporting someone with PTSD requires empathy, patience and dedication. By educating yourself about the condition, maintaining open communication, providing emotional support and encouraging professional help, you can play a crucial role in their recovery journey. To learn more about treating trauma and substance use disorders, contact Pura Vida Recovery today.