Keeping Families in Mind

Support for military families in South Yorkshire

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a form of anxiety that happens as a result of a traumatic event.  This can result from being involved in the event, or witnessing the event.

PTSD has links with the experience of ‘Shell Shock’ during the First World War, but it can be a result of any traumatic event and doesn’t have to be on the battle field.

The common symptoms of PTSD are;

  • Re-living what happened
  • Being alert or on edge
  • Avoiding feelings or memories
  • Difficult beliefs or feelings

Living with someone who is suffering with PTSD can be very hard for yourself, it can put immense pressure upon your relationship and the family dynamic.  The person suffering with PTSD isn’t always in control of their behaviours.  This can lead to anger, irritability, depression, mistrust, and other PTSD symptoms meaning your loved one cannot simply choose to turn off.

Self-care – PTSD

Dealing with flashbacks.

Flashbacks can be very frightening.  If your family member is having difficulties then some of the following tips may be useful for you to do together;

  • Having control of their breathing can be very helpful. There are many different techniques but to keep things simple, aim to just have a longer exhale than the inhale.  You could maybe guide them with this exercise.
  • Reminding your family member that they are safe can be very useful. Is there an object you could have at hand to give your family member, to remind them they are not in the traumatic event?  A photograph of a happier time may take them to a different place in their mind
  • Try and comfort your family member, this could be getting wrapped up in a blanket or watching something you both enjoy on TV that may act as a distraction.
  • Grounding techniques could be useful. Together you could describe 10 things you can see in a certain colour or describe 5 things you can see or touch - anything to take your family member away from their traumatic memory.

Look after yourself.

  • Give yourself space and time to do the things you enjoy independently without guilt. This is very hard but in order to support others, you need to look after yourself.
  • Be aware of any triggers that your family member may show e.g. irritability and take steps to deal with this change in mood.
  • For example, maybe you could have a special ‘word’ in your family (or relationship). If your family member is struggling they can say this word (in a text message for example) and this means that you and your children (if there are any) need to get out of the house and go somewhere safe. This can be useful even if your family member is not violent.
  • Another idea is to have a sliding scale on your fridge  (magnet) which indicates where your family member is at, in terms of mood and stress levels. If they’re showing a more unhappy face then you and the children will know that it’s wise to stay clear for now. When this changes it can be reflected by a happier face on the scale meaning you can feel more comfortable in approaching the situation or person.
  • Try to remember that it is not your fault that your family member is feeling like this and although you want to help them come through this difficult time it is not your sole responsibility.
  • Try and keep all lines of communication clear and open so that you can talk about where you are BOTH at.
  • Remember that your family member may say things that they really don’t mean.
  • During times of stress try and limit negativity in both of your lives, this could be mainstream media or reducing the amount of social media you expose yourselves too.

Other practical self-help tips;

  • Don’t always try and force your family member to talk to you about their traumatic experience.
  • Try and do normal things with your loved one. If you can, visiting friends and family or going to your favourite place can be really helpful.
  • Give your family member the lead in making decisions, this is much more preferable than telling your family member what to do or how they should feel.
  • Is there a song/movie you could play which really soothes your family member in times of stress?

It’s very important that you allow both yourself and your family member time to work through these difficulties.  Having feelings such as ‘this shouldn’t be happening’ only add to the stresses already present from PTSD. 

As with all mental health concerns, good physical health and a healthy diet can be really helpful - self-help tips and trying to get a good level of sleep can prove to be vital in working though PTSD.

If symptoms increase or you or your family member feel as though they are getting out of hand then it is important that you contact your GP to receive some short term treatment to help you out of the crisis.


Keeping Families in Mind run a regular course to help people understand and support family members with PTSD, find out more about it here