Throw Out the Lifeline | Dealing with PTSD

Throw Out the Lifeline | Dealing with PTSD

Helping Victims of PTSD

In a recent article on post traumatic stress we dealt with faith and how it brings focus and hope to those suffering with this condition.  Today I want to discuss a simple strategy for helping others. If you know someone with symptoms of PTSD who has not been diagnosed by a professional, please encourage them to seek help.  The solutions shared in this article are not suitable substitutes for professional help. This article is to equip the friend, family member, or co-worker who feels powerless in helping someone with PTSD.  Before I offer the solution of “throwing out a lifeline” let us examine how one gets to this place.

How does it happen?

About six months after a traumatic event an individual may begin to feel grief-stricken, depressed, anxious, guilty, or even angry.  In PTSD you may also:

  • Have flashbacks and nightmares- one may relive the event in their mind frequently, adding to the already stressful experience;
  • Avoid thinking about it (the event) by keeping busy and avoiding anything or anyone that reminds them of it;
  • Be overly ‘on guard’ – they stay alert all the time, unable to relax, feeling anxious and even sleep-deprived;
  • Get physical symptoms such as aches and pains, diarrhea, irregular heartbeats, headaches, feelings of panic and fear, depression
  • Start drinking too much alcohol or using drugs (including painkillers).  Though this is never an acceptable coping mechanism, the symptom is often seen in people suffering from PTSD.

I titled this article, “Throw Out the lifeline” for a good reason.  This condition becomes worse over time when one is not able to properly process the event and deal with the deep issues which take shape in these symptoms.  The following solution to helping others with PTSD is all about compassion and friendship.  Most who struggle with PTSD have deep-seeded emotions associated with their trauma. Often times it becomes impossible for them to verbalize what is going on. Therefore they begin the process of shutting down. Interestingly enough, when a person ‘shuts down,’ the symptoms may, and often do, increase.

How can you help?

  • Extend a hand of compassion and share your concerns.
  • Gather material on the subject to give to them.
  • Remember that most people with PTSD will attempt to avoid talking about the symptoms or the traumatic event. (Thats alright)
  • Remind them that talking about the trauma is an important part of healing.
  • If they refuse to open up, reinforce your concerns and leave an open door for them to come back to the conversation.
  • Let them know you are available anytime if they want to talk.
  • If they open up and share, remain non-judgmental.
  • Be a good listener.  Dont attempt to solve their problems or offer solutions.  Practice active listening skills.
  • Encourage them to talk about the trauma no matter how difficult it may be. (Discussions may have to be done repeatedly until symptoms decrease)
  • It is important to remain vigilant with this individual to help keep them on the road to recovery.

An analogy that will help explain the importance of compassion in dealing with PTSD victims: When a person is injured with a serious burn on their body, there is a systematic process of treatment and care by physicians as well as family.  There is a scrubbing procedure to remove the dead flesh and sanitize the wound.  If the wound is not treated properly then the risk of serious scarring may occur.  In some cases the result is catastrophic disability.  In other words, the process of proper treatment can be quite painful and extensive. When a burn injury is treated correctly, one avoids possible debilitative scarring.

Proper treatment of post-traumatic stress is a psychological scrubbing of the wounds of trauma.  There must be a systematic approach to this treatment by a professional, but be absolutely assured, family and friends play a crucial role in the recovery. By using the techniques mentioned in this article, you may be the only person able to “Throw Out a Lifeline” to someone you love.

©Reuven Dovid

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