Coping and support

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If stress and other problems caused by a traumatic event affect your life, see your health care professional. You also can take these actions as you continue with treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder:

  • Follow your treatment plan. Although it may take a while to feel benefits from therapy or medications, treatment can be effective, and most people do recover. Remind yourself that it takes time. Following your treatment plan will help move you forward.
  • Learn about PTSD. This knowledge can help you understand what you're feeling, and then you can develop coping strategies to help you respond effectively.
  • Take care of yourself. Get enough rest, eat a healthy diet, exercise and take time to relax. Avoid caffeine and nicotine, which can worsen anxiety.
  • Don't self-medicate. Turning to alcohol or drugs to numb your feelings isn't healthy, even though it may be a tempting way to cope. It can lead to more problems down the road and prevent real healing.
  • Break the cycle. When you feel anxious, take a brisk walk or jump into a hobby to re-focus.
  • Talk to someone. Stay connected with supportive and caring people — family, friends, faith leaders or others. You don't have to talk about what happened if you don't want to. Just sharing time with loved ones can offer healing and comfort.
  • Consider a support group. Ask your health professional for help finding a support group, or contact veterans' organizations or your community's social services system. Or look for local support groups in an online directory or in your phone book.

When someone you love has PTSD

The person you love may seem like a different person than you knew before the trauma — angry and irritable, for example, or withdrawn and depressed. PTSD can significantly strain the emotional and mental health of loved ones and friends.

Hearing about the trauma that led to your loved one's PTSD may be painful for you and even cause you to relive difficult events. You may find yourself avoiding his or her attempts to talk about the trauma or feeling hopeless that your loved one will get better. At the same time, you may feel guilty that you can't fix your loved one or hurry up the process of healing.

Remember that you can't change someone. However, you can:

  • Learn about PTSD. This can help you understand what your loved one is going through.
  • Recognize that withdrawal is part of the disorder. If your loved one resists your help, allow space and let your loved one know that you're available when he or she is ready to accept your help.
  • Offer to attend medical appointments. If your loved one is willing, attending appointments can help you understand and assist with treatment.
  • Be willing to listen. Let your loved one know you're willing to listen, but you understand if he or she doesn't want to talk.
  • Encourage participation. Plan opportunities for activities with family and friends. Celebrate good events.
  • Make your own health a priority. Take care of yourself by eating healthy, being physically active and getting enough rest. Take time alone or with friends, doing activities that help you recharge.
  • Seek help if you need it. If you have difficulty coping, talk with your doctor. He or she may refer you to a therapist who can help you work through your emotions.
  • Stay safe. Plan a safe place for yourself and your children if your loved one becomes violent or abusive.
Apr. 15, 2014