I want to support my wife in recovering from her PTSD, she was diagnosed before we got together. It got better at some point, but it’s back now and it’s very bad. It’s so hard to know what to do when she’s triggered and she gets flashbacks.
How can I help my wife recover from her PTSD?
PTSD isn’t easy to live with and it can take a heavy toll on relationships and family life. When a partner, friend, or family member has post-traumatic stress disorder it affects you, too. You may be hurt by your loved one’s moodiness and be struggling to understand their behavior—why they are less affectionate and more volatile. Knowing how to best demonstrate your love and support for someone with PTSD isn’t always easy. You can’t force your loved one to get better, but you can play a major role in the healing process by simply spending time together.
Don’t pressure your loved one into talking. It can be very difficult for people with PTSD to talk about their traumatic experiences. For some, it can even make them feel worse. Instead, let them know you’re willing to listen when they want to talk. Do normal things with your loved one, things that have nothing to do with PTSD or the traumatic experience. Encourage your loved one to seek out friends, pursue hobbies that bring them pleasure, and participate in activities such as walking, running, swimming, or rock climbing. You can do such activities together.
Be patient with your spouse. Recovery is a process that takes time and often involves setbacks. The important thing is to stay positive and maintain support for your loved one.
Educate yourself about PTSD. The more you know about it, the better you’ll be to help your loved one, understand what they are going through, and keep things in perspective.
Some of the things your loved one tells you might be very hard to listen to. It’s okay to dislike what you hear, but it’s important to respect their feelings and reactions. If you come across as disapproving, horrified, or judgmental, they are unlikely to open up to you again.
Don’t stop your loved one from talking about their feelings or fears. Don’t offer unsolicited advice or tell your loved one what they should or should not do. Don’t blame all of your relationship or family problems on your loved one’s PTSD.
Make your loved one feel weak because they aren’t coping as well as others.
You may find it difficult to understand what your partner is going through, that is perfectly fine. That is because you don’t struggle with PTSD or share the same type of experiences. However, you can still provide support and empathy when your spouse needs it most. Learning about the condition can help you and your spouse understand the situation better and know what to expect and how to handle the situation. Many people hesitate to ask their partner about their struggle with PTSD. You may be afraid of bringing up painful memories. You might even be concerned you will trigger PTSD symptoms. However, talking things over can be therapeutic for your partner.
If your wife is willing, allow her to share the experiences and feelings with you. Take the time to listen. Don’t tell your wife that you understand what she is going through because you don’t. Make sure your wife is getting the help she needs. This may involve going to regular therapy sessions, taking medications or going to group counseling.