How Do Children And Teens React To Trauma
Children and teens can have extreme reactions to trauma, but their symptoms may not be the same as those seen in adults. In young children under the age of 6, symptoms can include:
- Wetting the bed after having learned to use the toilet
- Forgetting how or being unable to talk
- Acting out the scary event during playtime
- Being unusually clingy with a parent or other adult
Older children and teens usually show symptoms more like those seen in adults. They also may develop disruptive, disrespectful, or destructive behaviors. Older children and teens may feel guilty for not preventing injury or deaths. They also may have thoughts of revenge.
For more information, see the National Institute of Mental Health brochure, Helping Children and Adolescents Cope With Disasters and Other Traumatic Events.
Living With Someone With Ptsd
Living with someone who has PTSD can present its own set of difficulties. A 2016 study in the Journal of Nursing Scholarship interviewed spouses of veterans with PTSD and revealed issues that arose, including:
- The unpredictability that comes with the disorder and not knowing what could trigger the spouse with PTSD
- Dealing with emotions or other mental health issues that could arise, such as suicidality
- Being concerned for their safety or the safety of children in the house
- Picking up extra work around the house in the case the spouse couldn’t fulfill these normal responsibilities
PTSD often presents with other mental health issues as well, which can be challenging for a caregiverparticularly one who lives with someone with PTSD.
How To Help Someone With Ptsd
Contributed by Christine Binney
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health problem that can occur after a traumatic event. It can be hard for people to know how to help someone with PTSD because it is impossible to relate to their experience. If you have a friend or family member who is suffering from PTSD, you know how difficult it is to see your loved ones behavior change. Its important to remember that the person suffering from PTSD doesnt always have control over their behavior, so you should not take their actions personally. While it is a hard journey for all involved, there are ways that you can help get life back to the way it was before the trauma. Here is a short guide on how to help someone with PTSD.
Understand the inner workings of PTSD
Understanding PTSD is the first step towards helping someone recover. PTSD is caused by harrowing ordeals such as a physical assault, sexual violence, a natural disaster, war, an accident or the death of a loved one. When a person is threatened with or suffers serious physical harm or violence, they will experience intense fear, helplessness and terror.
Learn the symptoms
Offer social support
Create a sense of safety
Have a plan in place
Remain calm during emotional outbursts
Encourage professional treatment
Take care of yourself
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How Can I Take Care Of Myself
Helping someone with PTSD can be hard on you. You may have your own feelings of fear and anger about the trauma. You may feel guilty because you wish your family member would just forget all the problems and get on with life. You may feel confused or frustrated because your loved one has changed, and you may worry that your family life will never get back to normal.
All of this can drain you. It can affect your health and make it hard for you to help your loved one. If you’re not careful, you may get sick yourself, become depressed, or burn out and stop helping your loved one.
To help yourself, you need to take care of yourself and have other people help you.
Tips to care for yourself
People With Ptsd Often Feel Unlovable
D. is beautiful inside and out. Not only is he strikingly handsome, he is smart, caring, and compassionate. But he didnt feel he was deserving of love, or even remotely loveable.
Traumatic experiences, in addition to being scary and impacting our sense of safety, very often have a direct effect on our cognition, says Irina Wen, MD, a psychiatrist and director of the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at NYU Langone Health.
Usually those effects are negative. As a result, the patient might start feeling undeserving and unlovable, or that the world is a dangerous place and people should not be trusted, she explains.
Over time, these negative thoughts become generalized so that negativity permeates all aspects of life. They can also carry over into a relationship.
D. would often ask me what I saw in him, how I could love him. This deep insecurity shaped how I treated him, with more reassurances without prompting.
D. needed a lot of time and attention from me. Because he had lost so much in his life, he had an almost controlling grip on me, from needing to know every detail of my whereabouts and having meltdowns when the plan changed last minute, to expecting me to be loyal to him above my own parents, even when I felt he didnt always deserve it.
In believing that he was unlovable, D. also created scenarios that cast him as such. When he was angry, hed express it by taking horrific jabs at me.
What Not To Do To Help Someone With Ptsd
When trying to help someone with PTSD, people often try approaches that are not helpful and leave the person feeling unsupported. In general, taking away a persons right to choose the circumstances under which they disclose trauma and get treatment can damage your relationship with that person, and be even more detrimental to their mental health.
The following are things not to do when trying to help someone with PTSD:
Remind Your Loved One: People Recover
Encourage them to find the right therapist.That is something that takes some effort. In order to recover from complex ptsd, its vital that your loved one receive competent trauma informed care. While therapists regularly encounter the survivors of trauma, most do not have much training in treating trauma.
Trauma treatment is a specialty that requires advanced clinical training. Having provided clinical supervision to Bay Area Therapists for over 15 years, I am completely unaware of any graduate school that provides even the most bare amount of trauma treatment training.
Its vital that your loved one with C-PTSD is in treatment with a trauma therapist who:
- Provides education to the patient about the nervous system and its role in developing trauma symptoms.
- Teaches emotional regulation skills
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What Should I Know About Participating In Clinical Research
Clinical trials are research studies that look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat diseases and conditions. Although individuals may benefit from being part of a clinical trial, participants should be aware that the primary purpose of a clinical trial is to gain new scientific knowledge so that others may be better helped in the future.
Researchers at NIMH and around the country conduct many studies with patients and healthy volunteers. Talk to your health care provider about clinical trials, their benefits and risks, and whether one is right for you. For more information, visit NIMH’s clinical trials webpage.
Dont Constantly Ask How Theyre Doing
While reaching out and creating social support is important to helping someone with PTSD, constantly asking them how they are doing is not as helpful. Making all of your interactions with this person about their PTSD and trauma will be tiring for them , and also may pressure them into thinking and talking about it when they dont want to. Instead, try to maintain regular contact by asking them about other things in their life, such as their pets, kids, and hobbies, and interact with them just like you would someone without PTSD.
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Children And Young People
Trauma-focused CBT is usually recommended for children and young people with PTSD.
This normally involves a course of 6 to 12 sessions that have been adapted to suit the child’s age, circumstances and level of development.
Where appropriate, treatment includes consulting with and involving the child’s family.
Children who do not respond to trauma-focused CBT may be offered EMDR.
Protect Your Own Mental Health Along The Way
Does learning how to help people with PTSD feel like its overwhelming? Thats fairly normal. Remind yourself that what youre doing can be taxing and draining. Youll want to support yourself while youre trying to help your loved one. You must remember to take care of your own physical and mental health as you navigate a relationship with a family member, partner, or friend with PTSD.
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Things I Learned From Dating Someone With Ptsd
One lesson: Caring for yourself is essential.
How we see the world shapes who we choose to be and sharing compelling experiences can frame the way we treat each other, for the better. This is a powerful perspective.
Theres nothing that can make you feel as powerless as living with a partner with post-traumatic stress disorder .
For three years, I was in a relationship with a man who experienced PTSD symptoms daily. My ex, D., was a decorated combat veteran who served in Afghanistan three times. The toll it took on his soul was heartbreaking.
His flashbacks and dreams of the past drove him to be hypervigilant, fear strangers, and fend off sleep to avoid nightmares.
Being the partner of someone who has PTSD can be challenging and frustrating for many reasons. You want to take away their pain, but youre also dealing with your own guilt at needing to care for yourself, too.
You want to have all the answers, but you often have to come to grips with the reality that this is a condition that cant be loved out of someone.
That said, understanding the disorder can help make it easier for both you and your partner to communicate and set healthy boundaries.
I spent years trying to understand how PTSD affected my partner, and, ultimately, had to walk away from our relationship. Heres what I learned.
What Are The Symptoms Of Ptsd
Symptoms of PTSD usually begin within 3 months of the traumatic incident, but they sometimes emerge later. To meet the criteria for PTSD, symptoms must last longer than 1 month, and they must be severe enough to interfere with aspects of daily life, such as relationships or work. The symptoms also must be unrelated to medication, substance use, or other illness.
The course of the illness varies: Although some people recover within 6 months, others have symptoms that last for a year or longer. People with PTSD often have co-occurring conditions, such as depression, substance use, or one or more anxiety disorders.
After a dangerous event, it is natural to have some symptoms or even to feel detached from the experience, as though you are observing things rather than experiencing them. A health care providersuch as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical social workerwho has experience helping people with mental illnesses can determine whether symptoms meet the criteria for PTSD.
To be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must have all of the following for at least 1 month:
- At least one re-experiencing symptom
- At least one avoidance symptom
- At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
- At least two cognition and mood symptoms
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Create A Safe Environment
You should be willing to invest a fairly significant amount of time before understanding how to help someone with complex PTSD. Create a safe and secure environment where theyll feel at ease. Trauma affects the brain in various ways. People with PTSD have imbalanced neurotransmitters, which can make it very difficult for them to experience certain things the same way other people do.
Its common for them to often experience anxiety symptoms like:
This is why it can be so helpful to create a relaxing, calm environment. Light some candles, diffuse some essential oils, and put on some soothing ambient sounds, and do something enjoyable. Create an environment that reflects calmness, safety, and security. Everybody likes to feel safe in their surroundings.
Make A Plan For Triggering Events & Crises
When someone with PTSD is triggered, they may experience physiological responses that make it difficult to think clearly and plan in moments of crisis. Someone with PTSD may have difficulty communicating what they need in a moment when they are actively triggered, so it is best to make a plan ahead of time for how you can best help them in triggering situations. This plan might include things like modifying certain behaviors, accompanying them to a quiet and non-crowded area, distracting them with a conversation, going for a walk, breathing exercises, looking at pictures of their loved ones, or interacting with a service animal or pet.
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Prevalence And Presentation Of Ptsd
In the United States, it is estimated that 8 percent of the population struggles with Posttraumatic-Stress Disordee . Trauma is defined as a disturbing or terrifying event that is experienced firsthand or witnessed.
PTSD is a serious mental condition that should be treated with self-administered coping skills and working with a licensed therapist.
When someone struggles with PTSD it can affect every part of their lives. It can make doing everyday activities extremely challenging or impossible.
Its also common for people who struggle with PTSD will turn to unhealthy ways of coping such as excessive alcohol or drug use. This can lead to developing addictions towards these substances, which will only make PTSD symptoms worse.
Unfortunately, due to stigmas and other shame-based issues, people with PTSD will try to ignore their symptoms of anxiety. This can be a debilitating way to live life because you are constantly haunted by the event that triggered the PTSD, to begin with.
Its important to remember that working through your PTSD or managing it in a better way is possible.
With that said, here are 11 ways to manage your PTSD at home. These are simple interventions that anyone can do, but they are powerful and effective.
Its important to be patient with yourself while you try each one to see which ones work best for you and your symptoms of PTSD.
How To Help Someone With Ptsd Sleep
Sleep problems and anxiety disorders often go hand in hand. When your mind is restless with worry, it can be hard to get to sleep at night. However, PTSD comes with the added complication of nightmares and sleep disturbances. That means when you do get to sleep, you may not get good rest. Nightmares may wake you up, or cause restless sleep, leaving you feeling tired the next day. Sleep disorders are common health problems in the United States, but its a serious issue.
Sleep problems can contribute to several mental and physical health problems, including poor concentration, depression, obesity, and heart disease. Getting your sleep under control can be an important step in addressing broader mental health issues.
If PTSD is the reason a loved one is struggling to sleep, a few things may help in addition to treating PTSD directly. Good habits that promote sleep are called good sleep hygiene. Several ways to improve sleep hygiene include the following:
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Treatment For People With Ptsd
When you diagnose someone with PTSD. It is important to get them the best possible treatment. There are many different types of treatments available. And the one that will be best for a particular person will depend on their individual symptoms. Some common treatments include:
It is important to work with a doctor to find the best treatment for someone with PTSD. There are many different treatments available, and the one that is best for a particular person will depend on their individual symptoms.
Furthermore, treatment for PTSD is often long-term. It is important to stick with the treatment plan and continue to receive treatment even after symptoms have improved. As it is a long process to get recovery.
How To Diagnose Ptsd
The first step in diagnosing trauma is making an appointment with a doctor, preferably someone trained in mental health disorders. The doctor will talk with the patient to determine their state of mind. The practitioner will have to determine whether the prerequisite symptoms for PTSD are present before deciding how to proceed. For a diagnosis of PTSD, the patient must have experienced the following for at least one month:
- At least one event in which they re-experience symptoms
- At least three avoidance symptoms
- At least two hyperarousal symptoms
- Symptoms that interfere with daily life activities
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What Can I Do To Help Myself
It is important to know that, although it may take some time, you can get better with treatment. Here are some things you can do to help yourself:
- Talk with your health care provider about treatment options, and follow your treatment plan.
- Engage in exercise, mindfulness, or other activities that help reduce stress.
- Try to maintain routines for meals, exercise, and sleep.
- Set realistic goals and do what you can as you are able.
- Spend time with trusted friends or relatives, and tell them about things that may trigger symptoms.
- Expect your symptoms to improve gradually, not immediately.
- Avoid use of alcohol or drugs.