Thursday, May 16, 2024

How To Help Someone With Ptsd Flashbacks

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What Should I Know About Participating In Clinical Research

How to Help Someone with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

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.

How To Prevent Ptsd Flashbacks

Sometimes, especially once you understand what leads to flashbacks, you may be able to prevent some of them. The following strategies might help:

  • Be aware of your triggers, such as places, situations, people, and things that are likely to remind you of the traumatic event.

  • Pay attention to warning signs. Your flashbacks may seem random, as though nothing motivated them. But in many cases, there are warning signs, such as a change in mood or sweating all of a sudden.

  • Speak to someone you trust. You might feel hesitant to talk about your past traumatic experiences and the flashbacks youre having. Keep in mind that you can confide in others without rehashing all the details of your traumatic event. You can simply say how youre feeling. Consider talking to a friend, family member, healthcare professional, helpline listener, or support group member.

  • Take care of your health, such as by exercising, watching your diet, getting in touch with the outside world , and avoiding unhealthy coping outlets like alcohol and drugs.

Why Ptsd Flashbacks Are Hard To Handle

Posttraumatic stress disorder flashbacks can feel very hard to handle because they can pull you out of the present moment to the point where you feel like youre reliving the trauma. A flashback can create similar levels of stress physically and psychologically as were experienced during the trauma.

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Common External Ptsd Triggers

  • Sights, sounds, or smells associated with the trauma.
  • People, locations, or things that recall the trauma.
  • Significant dates or times, such as anniversaries or a specific time of day.
  • Nature .
  • Conversations or media coverage about trauma or negative news events.
  • Situations that feel confining .
  • Relationship, family, school, work, or money pressures or arguments.
  • Funerals, hospitals, or medical treatment.

Tip : Rebuild Trust And Safety

Partner with PTSD: what is it like to have PTSD and how to ...

Trauma alters the way a person sees the world, making it seem like a perpetually dangerous and frightening place. It also damages peoples ability to trust others and themselves. If theres any way you can rebuild your loved ones sense of security, it will contribute to their recovery.

Express your commitment to the relationship. Let your loved one know that youre here for the long haul so they feel loved and supported.

Create routines. Structure and predictable schedules can restore a sense of stability and security to people with PTSD, both adults and children. Creating routines could involve getting your loved one to help with groceries or housework, for example, maintaining regular times for meals, or simply being there for the person.

Minimize stress at home. Try to make sure your loved one has space and time for rest and relaxation.

Speak of the future and make plans. This can help counteract the common feeling among people with PTSD that their future is limited.

Keep your promises. Help rebuild trust by showing that youre trustworthy. Be consistent and follow through on what you say youre going to do.

Emphasize your loved ones strengths. Tell your loved one you believe theyre capable of recovery and point out all of their positive qualities and successes.

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When A Loved One Is Experiencing Posttraumatic Stress

Loved ones who understand this can respond with compassion however, this does not mean putting up with hurtful or dangerous behaviors. Some trauma survivors might even seem okay on the surface, but underneath, managing the unresolved trauma is using up some of their strength and energy. Unresolved trauma also tends to build up inside, making the person more emotionally and physically brittle over time. Eventually, symptoms may appear after a relatively mild stressor, such as a small fender bender.

The ultimate goal of treatment for posttraumatic stress is to foster deactivation of the nervous system and restoration of resilience . With this comes the ability to be fully presentinstead of being partly stuck in the pastand to respond appropriately in the current moment. The neurological term for this resilience/responsiveness is self-regulation.

Here are several suggestions to keep in mind while supporting a loved one impacted by trauma:

To sum up, it can be incredibly distressing to be living in a nervous system that feels disobedient and unpredictable. However, as Dr. Peter Levine has said, humans were designed to withstand incredibly difficult conditions. With the help of a good practitioner, trauma survivors can access their underlying restorative ability of mind, body, and spirit, and continue on with their lives.

Note: I would like to acknowledge Phyllis Stein, PhD, SEP, for her editing contributions to this article.


Where Can I Find More Information On Ptsd

The National Center for PTSD, a program of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is the leading federal center for research and education on PTSD and traumatic stress. You can find information about PTSD, treatment options, and getting help, as well as additional resources for families, friends, and providers.

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There Are Treatment Options

Amid the feelings of hopelessness and isolation, people with PTSD do have options. The best way to tackle the mental health issue is with education and seeking the help of a professional.

People with PTSD feel like they are going crazy and are all alone in their condition. And the partner feels exactly the same, Wen says.

Often what we see in our clinic is that couples therapy becomes a gateway into individual treatment, Wen shares. The veteran might not necessarily agree to individual treatment yet. They dont want to feel like there is something wrong with them.

To support my partner and my own mental health, I continued my established solo therapy routine. Beyond that, I researched and tried a few other treatment options as well.

Here are few that may help you or your partner with PTSD:

  • Seek individual therapy as a partner of someone with PTSD.
  • Encourage your partner to attend individual therapy with a PTSD specialist.
  • Attend couples therapy.

How Can I Find Help

How To Help Someone With PTSD

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides the NIMH’s Help for Mental Illnesses webpage.

If you or someone you know is in immediate distress or is thinking about hurting themselves, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 1-800-273-TALK . You also can text the Crisis Text Line or use the Lifeline Chat on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.

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How To Help Someone With Complex Ptsd

Its awful to see someone you love suffer. You see how anxious and triggered they can get. Their mood swings. You see how troubled they become in intimate relationships. And you say to yourself I wish I knew how to help someone with Complex PTSD.

Complex PTSD is the result of surviving repeated abuse. Sadly, it often occurs at the hands of those who are supposed to love and care for us the most. Often the signs of complex trauma are overlooked. The survivor my struggle with how to explain complex PTSD to their loved ones.

Its this fact that is makes recovery from C-PTSD so challenging.

Tip : Be A Good Listener

While you shouldnt push a person with PTSD to talk, if they do choose to share, try to listen without expectations or judgments. Make it clear that youre interested and that you care, but dont worry about giving advice. Its the act of listening attentively that is helpful to your loved one, not what you say.

A person with PTSD may need to talk about the traumatic event over and over again. This is part of the healing process, so avoid the temptation to tell your loved one to stop rehashing the past and move on. Instead, offer to talk as many times as they need.

Some of the things your loved one tells you might be very hard to listen to. Its okay to dislike what you hear, but its 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.

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Where Can I Get Help

There is a relief that comes with the end of a flashback, but that doesnt mean its a one-time occurrence. Flashbacks can worsen over time if you dont address them. They can also be an indicator of PTSD. Managing flashbacks isnt easy work for anyone. Many survivors have found success working with a professional to identify triggers and develop tools to help them through flashbacks when they do occur.

To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE or chat online at

Please note that content on this site does not constitute medical advice and RAINN is not a medical expert. If after reading this information you have further questions, please contact a local healthcare professional or hospital.

Remember Youre Safe Now

Coping With Flashbacks and Dissociation in PTSD

Simply knowing youre having a flashback can help you feel a little safer, but a reminder never hurts.

You can remind yourself that youre safe and secure by repeating things like:

  • Im afraid, but Im safe.
  • Its over. I made it through.
  • Im safe at home. Im not in danger.
  • These memories are painful, but they cant hurt me.

If you have a difficult time remembering these calming phrases while in the grip of a flashback, consider jotting down a few reminder statements after the flashback passes.

Practicing them ahead of time can help you learn to reach for them automatically during a flashback.

If safety mantras dont help you feel more secure, try boosting your sense of security by:

  • holding or stroking your pet
  • grabbing your favorite blanket and curling up under it
  • locking your bedroom door

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Identify Early Warning Signs

Flashbacks and dissociation may feel as though they come out of the blue and they may feel unpredictable and uncontrollable. However, there are often some early signs that you may be slipping into a flashback or a dissociative state.

For example, your surroundings may begin to look fuzzy or you may feel as though you’re separating from or losing touch with your surroundings, other people, or even yourself. Flashbacks and dissociation are easier to cope with and prevent if you can catch them early on. Therefore, it’s important to try to increase your awareness of their early symptoms.

Next time you experience an episode, revisit what you were feeling and thinking just before the flashback or dissociation occurred. Try to identify as many early symptoms as possible. The more early warning signs you can come up with, the better able you will be to prevent future episodes.

How To Deal With Ptsd Flashbacks

Flashbacks can feel terrifying and disorienting. When you can, use coping skills to manage your distress during or after a flashback. The following self-care tips may help:

  • Remind yourself that you are having a flashback and that the traumatic event isnt actually happening right now no matter how awful it might feel.

  • Practice mindfulness, such as by taking deep, slow breaths, to alleviate the panic or anxiety you may be feeling. You can also touch or smell an item that has a calming or strong scent, such as a piece of scented fabric.

  • Apply grounding techniques to help you step out of the past and into the here and now. For example, look around you and take in what you see. Play music or tune into the sounds around you. Concentrate on your to-do list for the day.

After the flashback, make a note of what happened during the episode and what might have triggered it. This may give you a better understanding of your flashbacks.

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Tip : Anticipate And Manage Triggers

A trigger is anythinga person, place, thing, or situationthat reminds your loved one of the trauma and sets off a PTSD symptom, such as a flashback. Sometimes, triggers are obvious. For example, a military veteran might be triggered by seeing his combat buddies or by the loud noises that sound like gunfire. Others may take some time to identify and understand, such as hearing a song that was playing when the traumatic event happened, for example, so now that song or even others in the same musical genre are triggers. Similarly, triggers dont have to be external. Internal feelings and sensations can also trigger PTSD symptoms.

Talking About The Trauma Can Be Important

How to Deal with PTSD Flashbacks
  • Allow the person to talk about what happened, even if they become upset. Just be calm yourself and listen carefully getting upset too doesnt help.
  • Dont insist on talking if the person doesnt want to. They may need time to be alone with their thoughts. Tell them you are there to listen whenever they feel ready.
  • Reassure them you care and want to understand as much as possible about what happened to them. They may say you cant possibly understand what they went through and shut you out. If they take this approach, they risk becoming isolated from their support networks. Be patient and see what else you can do to help.
  • Try to make sure there is someone else they can talk to if they dont want to talk to you about it.
  • If there are some difficult decisions to be made, talk about the situation with the person and help them to identify the different options. However, dont make the decision for them. Also, if it is only a short time after the traumatic event, suggest that it might be a good idea to wait a little longer before making a decision.

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How Can I Help A Friend Or Relative Who Has Ptsd

If you know someone who may be experiencing PTSD, the most important thing you can do is to help that person get the right diagnosis and treatment. Some people may need help making an appointment with their health care provider others may benefit from having someone accompany them to their health care visits.

If a close friend or relative is diagnosed with PTSD, you can encourage them to follow their treatment plan. If their symptoms do not get better after 6 to 8 weeks, you can encourage them to talk to their health care provider. You also can:

  • Offer emotional support, understanding, patience, and encouragement.
  • Learn about PTSD so you can understand what your friend is experiencing.
  • Listen carefully. Pay attention to the persons feelings and the situations that may trigger PTSD symptoms.

How To Actually Help Someone With Cptsd

First, the bad news: You cant MAKE a person with complex PTSD change..

You cant make them heal. You cant make them learn about the adult effects of abuse and neglect in childhood, and you cant even make them admit theres a problem.

But the good news is there are things you can do to help a loved one accomplish all these things themselves without being controlling or judgmental .

Im going to give you five tips for how you can genuinely help another persons healing, and at the same time help yourself to enjoy more kindness, less chaos, and more closeness with this person you love, whos still struggling with trauma symptoms.

If you ARE the person with CPTSD, this is for you too, to give you words to ask for what you need, and to share when you need to give the people who care about you a roadmap for what actually helps you to continue the healing you are undertaking.

If youre the person who wants their loved one to change, heres the thing: What actually helps them is probably not what youre doing now, even though thats counter-intuitive. If you are pressuring them, it could even be delaying their healing. Ill explain why below.

I get at least one letter or comment every day from someone who is hurting because of a loved ones CPTSD behavior things like being shut down and cold, or flying into rages and saying cruel things that are out of character.

First, theyre probably right. It probably is CPTSD and their loved one needs to change.

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Love Isnt Always Enough

Many people who have relationships with someone with PTSD assume the role of caretaker. At least, this was the case with me.

I wanted to be the one person who didnt abandon D. I wanted to show him love can conquer all and that, with the right person, love could help him reinforce and reinstate a healthy lifestyle.

As heartbreaking as it is to admit, love often doesnt conquer all. This realization came in waves over the three years we were together, mixed with intense feelings of guilt and inadequacy.

Its an illusion, this idea that we can save people, Wen says. Its ultimately their responsibility as an adult to seek help, or to ask for help, even if it isnt their fault that they experienced trauma. We cannot make anyone take the help.

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