How to Approach Your Loved One After Trauma

It can be very difficult to know how to express love, support, encouragement or concern to a loved one who has experienced trauma. Whether through military combat or through being the victim of a crime, trauma is a terrible thing. It can cause noticeable and troubling personality changes that make the victim difficult to approach. As a friend or family member, however, you may play a critical role in your loved one’s eventual recovery.

Understanding Trauma

Certain experiences are so overwhelming they tend to shut down the emotional functioning of people. Soldiers and victims of violent crime often need to set aside their feelings during a traumatic experience in order to think and act quickly. The brain turns off emotional responses, such as revulsion, shock, horror, fear and sadness, in order to focus on survival. Like a circuit breaker that trips during a lightning strike, the traumatized individual tends to go emotionally dark. Unlike the fuse-box, however, the pent up emotions don’t necessarily begin to be processed right when the trauma is over. The negative feelings often remain pent up in the victim’s mind where they do incredible damage to his or her mental health.

The following symptoms of trauma, known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), can start shortly after the trauma or years later:

  • Panic attacks
  • Nightmares
  • Sleeplessness
  • Depression
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Verbal or physical abuse of others
  • Reckless thrill-seeking
  • Substance abuse

PTSD outbursts can be triggered by any number of experiences. This is one reason it can be so difficult to get through to a patient. One instinct many empathizing loved ones often experience is to say things like “I know how you feel.” While the heart behind statements like that is good, the truth is that no one, including the traumatized victim, truly knows how he or she feels.

The Benefits of Counseling

While counseling has obvious benefits for victims of PTSD, it can be incredibly useful for bystanders as well. In the same way that PTSD and corresponding issues affect everyone around the victim, the process of recovery is often a communal one as well. Specialized trauma recovery counseling can help the friends and loved ones of PTSD patients in the following ways:

  • PTSD counselors can help you understand the best way to communicate with your loved one.
  • Counselors can help you understand the cause of the disease, how it functions and how it can be treated.
  • A professional PTSD therapist might be able to help you coordinate an intervention if called for.
  • Counseling can help you maintain your own emotional health in the midst of your loved one’s trials.

Individual and family counseling are incredible resources for the loved ones of a PTSD sufferer.

Help Is Available

If you have more questions about how to approach your loved one after trauma, please call our toll-free helpline today. Our staff members are ready 24 hours a day with confidential, no-strings-attached answers. Call now.

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