What Not To Say To Someone Who Is Struggling With PTSD

Did you know that six out of every 100 people will live with PTSD in their lifetime, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs? PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder, and it affects folks who have seen or experienced something traumatic (via American Psychiatric Association). Long after the event occurs, people with PTSD have disruptive intrusive thoughts and disturbing nightmares. They can also have trouble concentrating, sleeping, remembering things, or engaging in activities they used to enjoy. PTSD has been linked to other things like sleep drunkenness, avoiding other people, and self-destructive behavior (via WebMD).

If you've never experienced PTSD (and sometimes, even if you have), it can be extremely difficult to know how to talk about it with someone who is currently living with it. If someone you know is experiencing PTSD, it can be scary to imagine saying the wrong thing and triggering them, but you also want to be there to support them when they're struggling. While things like therapy and CBD can help to treat PTSD, so can talking to a loved one (via HelpGuide). However, you want to first know what to say to a loved one who's living with PTSD before a conversation happens.

Things to avoid saying

There are plenty of things that you may have the impulse to say to your loved one with PTSD that you should really keep to yourself. For some people who don't understand the realities of PTSD, it may be tempting to say things like "get over it" or "move on" (via Yahoo!). This will make your loved one feel worse and doesn't present them with any viable solution. Another common sentiment people have when comforting someone else is "other people have it worse."  While this may help someone in a certain situation, more often than not, this is just guilt-inducing and not at all beneficial. For someone with PTSD, this is even worse than just guilt-inducing, because reframing your thoughts that way isn't a way to treat the problem.

You should never minimize the trauma that caused someone's PTSD by saying things like, "it wasn't that bad" (via Psych Central). It doesn't really matter what your outside perspective of the trauma is; what matters is their perspective and how their brain and body are responding to it. By the same token, telling your loved one that they are overreacting is both untrue and unkind.

How to be helpful

So, what should you say to someone with PTSD? If you find yourself relating to or having the impulse to use any of the above statements, the best thing you can do is learn about the realities of PTSD (via Yahoo!). The more you understand about this condition, the more likely you will be to have more empathetic responses. 

It's important to let your loved one know that you want to support them without making them feel pressured to open up. Saying something like, "Let's talk about how you're feeling," shows them that you are eager to listen if they want to talk and gives them the floor to control the conversation. Another great way to talk to your loved one with PTSD is to make it clear that you understand how difficult what they're going through is and that they are doing a great job of handling it. Saying something like, "I'm amazed by how strong you are," or "how you're handling this is impressive" can go a long way (via Psych Central).

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.