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16 Things To Remember If Your Loved Ones Suffer From Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

16 Things To Remember If Your Loved Ones Suffer From Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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    Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after you have been through some form of trauma. A trauma is an emotional or physical shock to the body that you see or experience. During this type of event, you think that your life or the lives of others are in danger, leaving you feeling afraid, helpless, or out of control.

    Many people, young and old, have gone through traumatic experiences and PTSD can be caused by a myriad of different things such as:

    • Witnessing an act of violence
    • Witnessing 911 or losing a loved one to 911
    • Serving in military combat zones
    • Being the victim of domestic violence
    • Surviving a severe accident
    • Bullying
    • Natural disasters such as floods, fires, tornados or hurricanes

    Experiencing trauma is not rare. An estimated six of every 10 (or 60%) of men and five of every 10 (or 50%) of women experience at least one trauma in their lives. Women are more likely to experience sexual assault and sexual abuse as a child. Men are more likely to experience accidents, physical assault, combat, disaster, or to witness death or injury.

    Going through a trauma however, does not mean you’ll get PTSD. Even though over half of us go through some type of trauma, only a small percent develop PTSD. It’s estimated that 7.8 percent of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives, with women (10.4%) twice as likely as men (5%) to develop PTSD.

    The timeframe of the actual traumatic experience may be short or prolonged, however the affect of that experience on a person can go on for many, many years. That is what makes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) so challenging.

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    Additionally, it may not present itself right after the event. Sometimes, it takes years before the signs and symptoms of PTSD show up in someone’s behavior.

    For some people, these experiences negatively change the way they perceive the world and their place in it, leaving them to learn how to cope with moving through the world in new, positive ways.

    According to MakeTheConnection.net, a website for veterans, there are a wide variety of signs and symptoms that can be shown by someone suffering from PTSD:

    Here are just a few well-known folks who are coping with the effects of PTSD:

    • Whoopi Goldberg – Actress: witnessed two planes crashing in midair as a child and has an intense fear of flying.
    • Alan Cummings – Actor: was submitted to severe physical and emotional abuse as a child.
    • Oprah Winfrey – TV show host: was raped at age 9 by a family member and abused for a number of years.
    • Major General John Cantwell – Australian Arm General: hid his PTSD for 20 years in the army and was promoted to Deputy Chief of the Australian Army.
    • Audie Murphy – Combat Soldier: Is the most decorated soldier of WWII and was awarded the Medal of Honor and several purple hearts.

    PTSD symptoms can cause a person to act in ways that may be hard for family members to understand. As friends or loved ones, we may see these symptoms in someone we care about but we might not know how to help or be of support.

    Those who are coping with PTSD will tell you that it is challenging on many levels. Here are 16 things they would like you to be mindful of as you support them in their healing process:

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    1. Get Educated. If you see the signs and symptoms of PTSD in someone you care about, learn more about what PTSD is, and what it isn’t, as it relates to your loved one’s experience.

    2. PTSD: a Chronic or Curable Condition? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, PTSD is a chronic condition that can be managed through various modalities of treatment. With treatment, the effects of PTSD can be reduced and even eliminated, however, memories of the event cannot be erased.

    Treatment can help someone regain control over their life from the symptoms of PTSD. It can also help reduce the extent to which symptoms of PTSD interfere with a number of different areas in their life such as work, school, or relationships. That said, it is important to remember that symptoms of PTSD can come back again. Once a person has successfully completed treatment, it does not mean the work is done. It is important that they continue to practice the healthy coping skills they learned in treatment.

    3. PTSD is not a choice. Just like other mental illnesses or addictions, it is not something that you “choose” to have or to do to yourself. Use kindness and compassion when someone you know is coping with the PTSD.

    4. Let the professionals treat your loved ones. Mental health experts are trained and equipped to handle mental illnesses such as PTSD. They will be able to talk with your loved one with an objective perspective and can utilize the best tools at hand for treating their PTSD. Your job is simply to love them best you can each day.

    5. You can’t push, coax, or cajole someone into treatment. This is especially hard for those who are watching folks who are dealing with PTSD. While you can make a suggestion to get treatment or even help them find the resources they need, they have to seek treatment for themselves. We’ve all heard the saying, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink…”

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    6. Understand your loved one’s symptoms and the impact of those symptoms on his or her behavior. What might not seem like a “big deal” to you could be a trigger for your loved one. The more you know about these triggers, the more effectively you can modify routines and avoid them.

    7. Recognize if they’re having trouble sleeping. Those trauma survivors who get PTSD are even more likely to suffer from insomnia and nightmares. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, of those coping with PTSD, 71% to 96% may have nightmares. If your loved one experiences insomnia or bad dreams, reduce the feelings of stress they experience especially before bed (ex. don’t watch the news before going to bed), reduce or eliminate caffeine in the late afternoon and evening, don’t eat too much before going to bed, and create an environment in which they can sleep well and feel safe.

    8. Consider getting a therapy dog. A therapy dog can provide a sense of security, calming effects, and physical exercise that can make a positive difference in the life of those that suffer with PTSD. A therapy dog can also help them  sleep better, as the dog can be on guard for them, and wake them up if there is a problem.

    9. Don’t ask insensitive questions. Questions about their trauma such as what happened, why it happened or how it happened, can trigger unwanted memories. If a friend or loved one wants to share the experience with you, he or she will do so when the time is right.

    10. Honor individual choices. It is important to understand that your loved one’s behavior does not necessarily indicate his or her true feelings. That is, he may want to go out with friends and family but he is too afraid of bringing up upsetting thoughts and memories. If your loved one says no to participating in some event or going somewhere, honor this answer.

    11. Anxiety has many faces. Especially for kids, but also for adults, anxiety can look like irritability, and it’s much harder to see it for what it is when that happens, according to Dr. Ruth Hoffman. Rather than responding to their crabbiness with “Where are your manners?” or “You don’t have to be such a grouch about it…” try taking a more compassionate route such as, “Wow, you really seem unsettled, is there something I can do?”

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    12. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not real. Each person deals with trauma in their his or her own unique way. Let go of your judgment, and reach for compassion instead as you never know what someone has been through or what they’re dealing with on the inside.

    13. Meet them where they are. A person with PTSD still has a range of feelings, she just may not be expressed in the same way or fashion as she did before the traumatic experience. This may look like utilizing different coping mechanisms to operate effectively in the world, mechanisms which aren’t as familiar to you. When you can meet her where she is and rather than “where she used to be,” you can lower your stress and hers.

    14. Let them be in control of their choices as much as possible. i.e. Don’t make all the choices for them. Conversely, asking them, “What do you want for dinner?” or “What do you want to wear?” (for kids) etc., can be overwhelming because it presents too many choices to think about.   If there is an obvious thing, like wanting to wear the same outfit over and over (some clothes feel safer than others), or wanting to sleep in the other room, etc., those are not things to argue about. Another approach might be “What can you wear that will feel safe enough, while I wash this other favorite outfit you’ve had on for three days?”

    15. Get the support you need. Support groups and/or couples counseling may be a good way to learn how to communicate with your loved one, as well as cope with his or her PTSD symptoms. They may also help you find the best way to encourage your loved one to get help if he hasn’t already.

    16. Treat them normally. If your family member or loved one is getting the treatment she needs, great. The best way you can support her as she goes through the healing process is to treat her normally, i.e. don’t walk on eggshells around her or use PTSD as an excuse to coddle her. Listen and love her as she learn how to effectively manage symptoms of PTSD.

    Dealing with the effects a friend or loved one with PTSD can bring many tests and trials to even the best of relationships.  It requires learning new things and making changes to old patterns and habits.

    The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to offer emotional support, understanding, patience and encouragement to your loved one on his or her road to recovery.

    And this is the most valuable gift you can give.

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    Last Updated on January 15, 2021

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

    Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

    Posture

    First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

    • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
    • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
    • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
    • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

    All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

    Facial Expressions

    Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

    • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
    • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
    • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

    If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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    1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

    A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

    The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

    This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

    2. Relax Your Face

    New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

    The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

    To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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    3. Improve Your Eye Contact

    Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

    The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

    To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

    3. Smile More

    There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

    Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

    4. Hand Gestures

    Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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    It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

    5. Enhance Your Handshake

    In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

    “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

    It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

    6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

    As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

    Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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    Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

    Final Takeaways

    Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

    If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

    More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

    Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

    Reference

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