When to Worry: Recognizing Signs of Trauma in Your Loved Ones
Over the past several years, there have been numerous traumatic events all across the country. From incidents of mass violence to devastating natural disasters, hundreds of thousands of Americans have experienced or witnessed a disastrous or life-threatening event. While most people bounce back from trauma in a few weeks, not everyone is able to recover so quickly. In addition to the above tragedies, anyone who has experienced a shocking or dangerous incident (such as a car accident, death of a loved one, or a robbery) is at risk of developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
PTSD is a serious condition that requires medical treatment. PTSD can have devastating effects on every aspect of a person’s life, from their marriage and family, to their friendships and career. If you’re concerned that a loved one may be suffering from PTSD, here are some signs to look out for:
Reliving the Trauma
Someone with PTSD will have repeated, involuntary re-experiences of the event. They may experience bad dreams or intrusive waking flashbacks. They’re also vulnerable to certain cues that remind them of what happened, such as sounds or smells. If you notice your friend, family member, or colleague reacting in a blatantly disproportionate manner, think “Their trauma might be activated.”
Someone silently suffering from trauma may be prone to anger, agitation, or sadness. Feeling irritable, the sufferer may be prone to outbursts of anger that they can’t control. If you’ve noticed your loved one frequently losing control and lashing out in anger, this is a sign that they’re suffering emotionally and require treatment.
People suffering from PTSD usually avoid people and situations that remind them of the situation. As the victim continues to isolate themselves, how their friends and family react to their withdrawal will likely further isolate them, causing additional emotional distress.
It’s not uncommon for people with PTSD to self-medicate. Seeking an escape from high levels of stress and difficult emotions, they may turn to drugs or alcohol. The painful trademark of substance abuse is the growing need for more of the drug to produce the same high, sometimes resulting in more chronic addiction. If left untreated, as substance abuse grows, the abuse will eventually grow into dependence in order for the person to “function.” This can have devastating effects on every facet of a person’s life.
If you’re concerned that a loved one is experiencing symptoms of trauma, the most important think you can do is encourage them to seek professional treatment as soon as possible. You can help by contacting offices and vetting therapists on their behalf, and/or volunteer to take them to an appointment. Assure them of your love and support throughout the process. Remember that you cannot force anyone to do anything, but your unconditional attempts to understand increase their likelihood of feeling safe enough to step outside of their comfort zone.