A PTSD episode can be extremely distressing and may cause the person to feel out of control, disconnected and lonely, or fear for their life. This can be a severely overwhelming experience. If you are close to someone with PTSD, it’s important to know how to support them during a PTSD episode.
What is a PTSD Episode?
A PTSD episode, also known as a PTSD attack, is a period of intense symptoms that lasts for hours. The symptoms can be so severe that they interfere with the person’s ability to work or function in daily life. During a PTSD episode, the person may relive the trauma that caused their PTSD through intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, visions, and nightmares.
They may also experience intense anxiety and debilitating fear. The physical symptoms of a PTSD episode can include shaking, sweating, racing heart, and difficulty breathing. In some cases, the person may feel like they are losing control or about to die.
What You Can Do to Help
There are things you can do to help someone calm down during a PTSD attack, some of which are outlined below:
Create a safe space
The first thing you should do is create a safe space for the person. This means removing any potential triggers from the environment, such as loud noises or bright lights. If possible, try to find a quiet place for the person to sit or lie down.
Stay calm and reassuring. Reassuring the person with positive words can help them feel calmer and more in control. Avoiding any sudden movements will also help to reduce the person’s anxiety. It’s best to speak in short, simple sentences so that the person can focus on what you’re saying.
Encourage the person to breathe slowly and evenly
One of the symptoms of a PTSD episode is hyperventilation, which can make the person feel even more panicked or as if they are losing control. Encouraging the person to breathe slowly and evenly will help reduce their anxiety and prevent further panic attacks.
Encourage the person to stay in the present
It’s common for people with PTSD to dissociate from reality during a traumatic event. This means that they may feel detached from their body or like they are going through a traumatic experience all over again. It’s essential to encourage the person to focus on the present moment and to ground themselves in their surroundings. You can do this by asking them to describe what they see, feel, and hear in the present moment.
Provide emotional support
It’s crucial that you provide emotional support and reassurance during a PTSD episode. Let the person know that you are there for them and that they are not alone. Listen to them without judgment and offer words of encouragement. Helping the person feel understood and validated can be incredibly helpful in managing their symptoms.
Encourage them to seek professional help
PTSD is a progressive disorder, which means that it will typically get worse over time if left untreated. It’s vital to encourage the person to seek professional help so that they can get the treatment they need. This will help prevent future PTSD attacks.
Helping someone with PTSD can be difficult, but it is key to be there for them nonetheless. Let them know that you are there for them and offer your support whenever they need it. If they want to talk about their experiences, listen without judgment. Reassuring your loved one that they are not alone and that you will support them through this difficult time can go a long way. Don’t forget to encourage them to seek help from a mental health specialist.