Learning how to help someone with PTSD is one of those blurred-line tasks that few of us master. Sleepless nights, anger that comes from nowhere, and a sudden inability to focus are symptoms caused by reliving past traumas. Those who have PTSD experience emotional distancing. Avoiding people and places likely to trigger a flashback are common. The walls PTSD sufferers build are medieval by design; robust, tall, and unassailable.

People with PTSD exhibit an unwillingness or inability to share traumatic experiences. This makes learning how to help someone with PTSD a challenge. Loved ones feel sidelined, desperate to reach out in some way. Triggers often appear to the person experiencing PTSD but remain hidden from view for everyone else. Differentiating between a random sleepless night and a full-blown panic attack is no easy feat. At times, an individual with PTSD will proactively attempt to hide the condition via a lack of transparency or outright deflection.

And through it all, there are always the questions. What can I do? How can I shoulder some of the burdens? When does my loved one start trusting me enough to let me share their pain? How can I help someone with PTSD?

What is PTSD?

Few of us have escaped traumatic experiences entirely. From the loss of close friends or family to nasty accidents, brushes with death, health scares, and setbacks, adversity is part of the human condition.

When a person experiences symptoms for at least one month following a traumatic event, they are said to have PTSD. Signs do not always manifest immediately. The traumatic event triggering the PTSD might have occurred years before. The symptoms themselves manifest in four main ways.

Revisiting trauma



Mood and cognition

How Common Is PTSD in Ex-Service Personnel?

Soldier with PTSD

Image by Alf-Marty from Pixabay

Thankfully for those seeking advice on how to help someone with PTSD, there is significant research. The number of ex-servicemen who have PTSD varies. Rates among veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom stand somewhere between 11 and 20 percent. The rates among Vietnam War vets are estimated to have been as high as 30 percent.

While such figures are shocking, it is important to note that effective treatments are available. While some PTSD develops into a chronic condition, in many other cases, the effects are short-lived. The short lifespan of PTSD is especially evident in those individuals who seek treatment. Regardless, the national average for PTSD diagnosis stands at 7 to 8 percent, so rates among service members are abnormally high.

Risk factors

There are, of course, several risk factors that exacerbate the chances of developing PTSD. Service personnel from lower socio-economic backgrounds are more susceptible. Misuse of drugs or alcohol can play a role in the development of PTSD as well. Lastly, pre-existing mental health issues increase the likelihood of developing PTSD.

Nobody is immune from the effects of PTSD. That is as true for military personnel as it is for the general population. Developing PTSD is not a sign of weakness. Different people process trauma in different ways. Where one person might walk away from an event unscathed, another might require hours of therapy before coming to terms with it.

Spotting the Signs

Although the symptoms of PTSD are easy to define, they are also easy to confuse with other less severe conditions. Sometimes an inability to sleep is unrelated to past traumatic events. Mood swings are not uncommon and are not exclusive to people with PTSD.

Often, emotional distancing is the first sign that something is wrong. A reluctance to talk things over is one of the first symptoms. Those wishing to learn how to help someone with PTSD have an uphill struggle from the start. It is for this reason that seeking professional help is of such vital importance.

How to help someone with PTSD

Convincing someone with PTSD to seek help is often a difficult task. For that reason, anyone wanting to learn how to help someone with PTSD should arm themselves with a little knowledge. Understanding the treatments available is the first step in how to help someone with PTSD. There is no need to develop a comprehensive understanding PTSD. Knowing a basic overview of PTSD is sufficient.

Treating PTSD with Medication

Medical Drugs

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

PTSD is a notoriously difficult condition to tackle, but figuring out how to help someone with PTSD has led to some useful innovations. There is no precognitive way of knowing which treatment will work for any person. Often, it is a combination of treatments working in tandem that proves the most effective remedy.


Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)

Treating PTSD with Psychotherapy


Image by Tiyo Prasetyo from Pixabay

Learning how to help people with PTSD requires time and patience. It is for this reason that professional psychiatric care is one of the most common ways of treating the disorder. Many of the medications available for those with PTSD are of little use without associated psychotherapy.

The three main approaches to PTSD treatment with psychotherapy are CPT, EMDR, and CBT.

Cognitive processing therapy (CPT)

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Self Help

Help groups and charities

Help for Loved Ones

Child's hand holding parent's hand

Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay

There is a natural tendency to avoid trying to help someone with a problem. When someone has PTSD, it affects the people around them in profound ways. It can lead to relationship problems, anxiety, and depression and often has a direct influence on happiness and well-being.

Learning how to help someone with PTSD involves a certain amount of self-analysis. Feelings of guilt at your own inability to cope are not uncommon. People are often too concerned with the plight of loved ones to recognize the strains that they are putting on themselves. Regardless, trying to help a loved one through a painful process while ignoring yourself is inadvisable.

Organizations like the National Center for PTSD are well aware of the importance of taking care of the caregivers. They offer programs designed to help families who are trying to learn how to help someone with PTSD.

Money Matters

1 Dollar Bill

Image by Thomas Breher from Pixabay

Living with PTSD has many hidden costs. Often, people with PTSD are unable to work. Medical bills add further burden to an already delicate situation. Fortunately, for veterans at least, help is available.

Your first stop when trying to learn how to help someone with PTSD is the U.S Department of Veteran Affairs. Listed on their site are the various forms of financial aid available to veterans. These benefit packages include disability compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC), and, special monthly compensation (SMC).

The VA also offers aid to those veterans with disabilities who need help with housing and insurance. Details of the three main programs, Adapted Housing grants, Service-Disable Veterans' Insurance, and Veterans' Mortgage Life Insurance, are available on the VA website.

Putting Things Back Together

No matter how bleak things might seem to those with PTSD, it is essential to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Even outside of the Department of Veteran Affairs, organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project and Give an Hour work tirelessly to help those struggling with PTSD.

While no amount of therapy is a guarantee of success, the sheer wealth of options available to veterans gives them the best possible chance of returning to a semblance of normality. And normality is the one thing most people with PTSD desire above all else.

Because sometimes it is the non-physical injury that hurts the most. The conflicted emotional state of someone with PTSD is not something one can grin and bear. Time, love, patience, and understanding are vital ingredients in any roadmap to recovery. And for those who want to know how to help someone with PTSD, knowing that help is out there is more than mere comfort. It's something of a godsend.

Featured Image: Image by 911 e-Learning Solutions, LLC from Pixabay

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This