Post-traumatic stress disorder

How to help someone with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

How to help someone with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 1200 800 Team Mindsum
Last updated: 22 February 2021

It can be challenging when you have a loved one that suffers from PTSD. It is a disorder that tends to interfere with their everyday life. Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to help. These are discussed below.

Understand PTSD

It is a good idea to read as much information on PTSD as you can. Understanding PTSD and how it works will help you to recognize the ways that your loved one is affected, and the ways that you can help.

To read more information on PTSD, you can view our pages on PTSD and getting help for PTSD

Help them to feel safe and supported

A person with PTSD sees the world as a dangerous and frightening place. It is important for you to help them feel safe and supported.

Be dependable and trustworthy: Try to stick to your promises and commitment towards them. Remind them that you are there for them, whenever they need you.

Show acceptance: PTSD might be something that is difficult for you to understand, but it is a real problem for them. Let them know that they are accepted no matter what. Avoid being judgemental or critical about their difficulties. Here are 20 things not to say to someone with PTSD.

Be patient: PTSD might make it difficult for them to do certain activities. It will take some time before they can recover from this disorder. Be patient and continue to show your support without putting on too much pressure.

Help them to find the right support

You can encourage them to find support through a GP or a therapist. If this involves your young child, you can contact these services. You might:

  • Help them to book an appointment with a GP or therapist

  • Offer support when they attend appointments (e.g. waiting in the waiting room or attending some sessions if you need to)

  • Help them search for support groups or self-help resources (e.g. leaflets, mindfulness apps, relaxation sessions)

  • Encourage them to keep attending sessions and to not give up

  • Give them small reminders to do their homework assigned by the therapist

Create a secure environment for them

You can make some adjustments that will help them feel more safe and secure, wherever they are. You might:

  • Avoid the things that trigger them (e.g. crowded places, loud noises, sudden movements)

  • Let friends and family know how to approach them

  • Try to keep a calm atmosphere at home

  • Minimize stress at home (e.g. avoiding arguments, letting the neighbours know)

  • Allow them to have their personal space

Be open to listen

Take the time to just sit with them and listen. You do not always need to give advice and have all the answers. It is more important that your loved one feels heard by you. This will help to create a safe space for them, where they can feel comfortable to share their difficulties out loud. 

Help them to cope during a flashback

Be prepared to support your loved one as they experience a flashback or panic attack. This can be a very stressful situation for both you and your loved one. Here are some things that you can do:

  • Stay calm and relaxed

  • Be mindful about making sudden movements

  • Help them to ground themselves by getting them to describe their surroundings

  • Encourage them to take some deep breaths for some minutes

  • Let them know that they might be having a flashback

  • Reassure them that they are safe now 

Help them to have a routine

Having a routine can help them to feel less anxious because they will know what to expect. You might help them to:

  • Make a schedule for their day

  • Make a checklist

  • Have a regular dinner and bedtime routine

  • Talk in advance about any changes to the schedule 

Know what NOT to do

When it comes to our loved ones, it makes sense to do whatever it takes to help them feel better. But this is not always a good thing. Here are some things to be mindful of when supporting a loved one with PTSD:

  • Do not blame or be critical of their difficulties

  • Do not tell them to snap out of it

  • Do not pressure them into situations that make them uncomfortable

  • Avoid overpowering them by doing everything for them, when they are capable of doing it themselves

  • Don’t assume they will be okay in certain situations without asking first

Look after yourself too

It is extremely important for you to look after yourself. Whether you are a parent, family member or a friend, you will be in a better position to give help, as long as you are taking care of your own well-being too. To do this you might:

  • Get other family members also involved in supporting your loved one

  • Schedule some time off for yourself

  • See a professional that can support your mental health

To read more about looking after yourself, see our page on self-care when helping someone else.

List of useful resources 

To read more information about PTSD on the NHS website, you can click here to access the link. 

To read information about helping someone with PTSD on the MIND website, you can click here to access the link.

To read information about helping someone with PTSD on the PTSD UK website, you can click here to access the link.

Click here to get free advice from our experts

getting help PTSD

Getting help for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Getting help for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 1200 900 Team Mindsum
Listen to this article (07:41)
Last updated: 4 January 2021

This article covers:

– What types of therapies are involved?

– What types of professionals are involved?

– The journey of recovery from PTSD

What types of therapies are involved?

Trauma-focused psychological therapies are important when treating PTSD. This can really help the child or young person to recover from the disorder. These therapies include trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. These will be discussed below.

Trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (TF-CBT)
TF-CBT is a type of talk-therapy that focuses on how we think and act towards traumatic memories and how this affects the way we feel. Research shows that it is an effective treatment for trauma in children and young people.

The idea behind TF-CBT is to help people to change the way they think about past traumatic events and to respond to these memories differently.

The child or young person will learn to process certain memories, manage flashbacks, cope with anxiety and work with personal meaning related to the trauma.

In the case of complex PTSD, this process might take longer to achieve. The therapist will also help the child or young person to deal with other issues that may be a barrier to improvement.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing  (EMDR)
This is a specialized therapy that helps people to process and make sense of traumatic memories. It is appropriate for children from the age of 7 years or older and when TF-CBT has not been effective. Research shows that EMDR is an effective treatment for trauma in children and young people.

The idea behind this is that a lot of traumatic memories are not fully processed. Therefore it is helpful for the person to process these painful memories in a controlled way, that allows them to come to terms with the event.

The therapist will engage the child or young person to perform eye movements, tones and taps that allows them to think about painful memories in small chunks at a time. What they think and feel during these exercises might then be discussed with the therapist.

Eventually, the child or young person will have processed all parts of the traumatic event and this will help them to recover from the symptoms of PTSD.

What types of professionals are involved?

There are different professionals that may or may not be involved throughout the treatment process of PTSD for children and young people. These might include counsellors, psychotherapists, doctors/psychiatrist and social workers. These terms might be confusing, but the main difference is in the training that each of these professionals have received. 

In the UK, there is not much of a distinction made between counsellor or psychotherapist. Both of these professionals provide therapy. However, there are some slight differences between these two professional terms. These are outlined below.

Counsellors: Compared to psychotherapists, counsellors tend to have had a shorter training and they help people deal with their issues on a more short-term basis. There may be school-based counsellors available that children and young people can approach at their own school. Here at Mindsum, we have counsellors that are available to provide support.

Psychotherapists: Psychotherapy training tends to be longer. Psychotherapists can also give counselling but their approach to talk therapy is more in-depth, exploring the history and causes of certain behaviours and emotional issues. The psychotherapist will then treat PTSD in this specialized way. Here at Mindsum, we have psychotherapists that are available to provide support.

It doesn’t mean that one professional is better than the other. All professionals in this field go through intensive training before they begin to practice. In fact, when dealing with PTSD, counsellors and psychotherapists with experience in working with PTSD will likely be the ones to provide support.

There are also doctors and psychiatrists that can be involved. There are more obvious differences between these two professional terms.

Doctors: These are professionals that are trained in medicine. This will likely be the family GP, who might find it necessary to prescribe certain medications for other conditions. Medication is not usually prescribed for PTSD in children and young people.

Psychiatrists: These are professionals that are also trained in medicine. However, they also specialized in the field of psychiatry. So they are able to provide consultation and medication for a wide range of mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, psychosis, bipolar affective disorder and so on.

Social workers: Workers trained in protecting vulnerable individuals might also be involved with the child or young person, especially in trauma cases such as domestic violence, neglect and child abuse. Social workers will provide support or will help to make arrangements for support. They will work to ensure the safety and well-being of the child or young person.

The journey of recovery from PTSD

The journey of recovery from PTSD can look different for each child or young person. This also depends on the complexity of the PTSD. But there are some things that are expected when going through therapy for PTSD.

This is an important phase, where the counsellor or psychotherapist will get a feel of what is going. The therapist might try to identify the severity of the PTSD, along with other important background information. At this stage, the therapist will need to ask many questions. This will help to create a full picture of what is going on and to know what type of treatment will be most helpful. 

Therapy sessions
These sessions will take place with a time and regularity that suits the child or young person and their parents. An important aspect of the therapy session is the relationship that the counsellor or psychotherapist will build with the child or young person. This will create a safe space that will encourage them to talk about their feelings and engage fully in the exercises. In cases of more complex trauma, therapy may take a long time before improvements can be made. 

Progress and setbacks
When having treatment for PTSD, there will be progress and setbacks. This is because the child or young person will be learning to cope with very sensitive and painful memories, which are often disturbing. It is important not to feel discouraged when setbacks happen, as this can be quite normal when dealing with PTSD or any type of serious mental health difficulties. These situations provide opportunities to discover new ways to move forward together with the therapist.

Ending therapy
The counsellor or psychotherapist will eventually prepare the child or young person and their parents for the end of therapy. This is a very important phase, because it is vital for the child or young person to become confident in coping without relying too much on the professional. The end of therapy will take place once the child or young person has made a lot of progress or has completely recovered from PTSD. The child or young person will leave therapy with many skills that they can use without the help of the therapist.

Follow up
There might be an agreement with the counsellor or psychotherapist to have a follow-up meeting. This is to check how the child or young person is coping. If they are doing well, there will be no need for more support. But if they continue to have challenges with PTSD or any other issues, this will be an opportunity to have extra support.  

List of useful resources

Post-traumatic stress disorder
To read our information on PTSD, you can click here to access the link.

What to expect in counselling for trauma
The British Association for the Counselling Professions (BACP) have a useful article on what to expect when getting counselling for trauma. To read more, you can click here to access the link.

Introduction to counselling and psychotherapy
The British Association for the Counselling Professions (BACP) have a useful document on different aspects of therapy. To read more, you can click here to access the link.

Click here to get free advice from our experts

PTSD blog

Helping with your PTSD

Helping with your PTSD 1126 783 Alisha Gibbons

We all know that mental health problems can be treated through therapy and medication, but it is also important for you, the individual to look after yourself and there are things you can do to make living with a mental health problem easier. This blog post will outline some of the things you can do to help you if you are struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, more commonly known as PTSD, is an anxiety disorder which can arise after an individual has witnessed, or has been involved with distressing, traumatic and frightening events. These events may include road accidents, health problems or any type of assault. PTSD may occur very soon after the said event, or a period of time after the event. There is no time limit for symptoms of PTSD to appear. 

PTSD affects one in three people who have experienced a traumatic event. 

So how would you know if you are suffering from PTSD? Common symptoms include; reliving the event via flashbacks, feelings of isolation, guilt, nightmares, disturbed sleep, extreme alertness, feeling numb, bad concentration or self-destructive behaviour. If you’re experiencing some of these symptoms you should seek help.

PTSD can be treated by medical professionals through such things at therapy and medication, however, this blog post is going to discuss some of the things you can do yourself, coping strategies, to help you feel more in control of your PTSD. 

Self Care: Do something that makes you feel safe and comforted, or something that you enjoy. This could be listening to your favourite music, watching a film to take your mind off the outside world, or ringing a friend or family member. Anything that makes you feel happy and makes you forget about the event and of anxious feelings. 

Understand what triggers you: some places and situations may trigger your PTSD response, making you feel anxious or have a flashback of the event. If you get to know what things trigger this response in you it is easier to plan ways to cope when you come into contact with them, such as breathing techniques or self-affirmations. It will also be easier for you to avoid the triggers, for example, if it is a certain place that triggers you, you could plan an alternative route to your destination in advance.

Talk to someone: It may seem difficult to do this as you may not understand your feelings or may not want to discuss the event, but it is one of the best things you can do. Confiding in someone you trust can be the first step in recovering from PTSD. It will make you feel less alone, more relaxed and more in control of your thoughts and feelings. 

Breathing techniques: Simple breathing techniques can be very effective when you are feeling panicked or anxious. Focus on taking deep breaths in and out for a couple of seconds and you should start feeling more relaxed. This is due to you beginning to feel in control of your breathing. Meditation apps and videos are another good way to help you focus on your breathing and relax.

If you are suffering from PTSD and need professional help, please seek help from your local doctor. Alternatively, you can contact us on our ‘ask an expert’ page and we can point you in the right direction to get the help you need.  

You can read more about the self-care for PTSD at Mind and NHS.

Click here to get free advice from our experts

Mindsum treatment PTSD

Mindsum helped me with my PTSD in lockdown

Mindsum helped me with my PTSD in lockdown 2560 1844 Team Mindsum

I have been recently diagnosed with PTSD, after many years of silent suffering that I had been going through. The most obvious symptoms I have are, inability to control my anger and emotions, feeling socially awkward and a sense of being worthless.

My PTSD is deep-rooted in my traumatic experience I went through as a teenager. Because of my condition, it was hard to get proper sleep, as I had flashbacks and nightmares. As a result, I was becoming more tired and depressed. The more depression I had, the angrier I became. Managing anger was a real struggle as it was ruining my relationships. My friends and family suggested that I should seek help. And that’s what I did. I searched for a therapist online and finally started my therapy sessions. My therapist was helpful, and she devised the mindfulness and yoga plan specifically suited for me.

I was felling the difference after I started my sessions with my therapist. After a few weeks of following ‘therapy plan’ with my therapist, the government announced lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This meant, my therapist could no longer visit me for my weekly sessions. Also, she had to take care of her mother, so she could not even offer me any online therapy sessions. Basically, I was back to square one. So, my search for the therapist started again. This is how I found Mindsum.

Mindsum was quick to understand my condition and based on the information I provided, they connected me with a therapist. I was amazed to see how quick the whole process was. Also, the therapist was able to offer me the support and therapies online, over a video call. I’ve been practising mindful sessions with my therapist and also got the instructions on how to practice mindfulness on my own before I sleep.  And the best part, it’s all free.

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 2000 1333 Team Mindsum
Listen to this article (09:20)
Last updated: 4 January 2021

What is PTSD?

Causes of PTSD

The symptoms of PTSD

Treating PTSD

List of useful resources

How Mindsum can help?

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a form of anxiety that is experienced by people who have been exposed to traumatic events. It is a common mental health condition, that can affect people of all ages, including children and young people.

Following exposure to a traumatic event (e.g. witnessing a severe accident) it is normal for people to feel disturbed by the incident and have some difficulties, such as nightmares and low mood. This is known as an acute stress reaction and it usually disappears after some weeks.

For some people, these difficulties can be more severe and persist over time, lasting longer than one month. This is a sign that they could be suffering from PTSD.

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

People who repeatedly experience traumatic situations, such as severe neglect, abuse or violence, may be diagnosed with complex PTSD.

Complex PTSD can cause similar symptoms to PTSD and may not develop until years after the event. It’s often more severe if the trauma was experienced early in life, as this can affect a child’s development.

Causes of PTSD

There are many traumatic situations or events that can cause a child or young person to develop PTSD. Some people might find some events more traumatic than others. Examples of traumatic events include:

  • Serious car accidents

  • Physical or sexual abuse

  • Being attacked, kidnapped or held hostage

  • Childhood abuse

  • Witnessing or being involved in domestic abuse 

  • Surviving war or natural disasters

  • Witnessing or being involved in torture

  • Witnessing death, or the deceased

  • Learning that someone close to you has been affected by trauma (known as secondary trauma)

Not all exposure to distressing events will cause a person to develop PTSD. But there are some risk factors that can make this more likely to happen. This includes:

  • Being a child or young person

  • If the trauma was a physical assault or rape in nature

  • Having experienced previous traumas

  • Experiencing many stressors at the same time

  • Having a history of mental health disorders

  • Being a child with a lack of support from family members

  • Being a child of parents with mental health difficulties

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