Mental health / Mental Health & Wellbeing

5 Things You Probably Shouldn’t Say to Someone With PTSD

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“When we feel weak, we drop our heads on the shoulders of others. Don’t get mad when someone does that. Be honored. For that person trusted you enough to, even if subtly, ask you for help.” ~ Lori Goodwin

1. I’m not going to treat you any differently because you’re sick, and you know you wouldn’t really want me to.

Well, no. What you’re really trying to say here is that’s you’re determined not let my illness impact on your life, isn’t it? Since I’ve told you, repeatedly actually, that I need to you to act just a little bit differently so that you stop triggering me. Dick.

People with PTSD have their own specific things which trigger their anxiety or cause them to act out. If you want to support someone with PTSD ask them what their triggers are – or whether there’s anything that they need you to do differently, or not do at all – so that they can continue to feel safe around you.

2. You must be a bit better, you’ve been off work for ages.

Now, see, the mistake you’re making there is assuming that my ‘getting better’ is an inevitability. At this point it’s a pretty even bet that this thing’s going to kill me.

PTSD is a frustrating illness, the healing process can take a very long time, and I’ve found that an episode has to reach it’s absolute worst before things start to turn around. If someone you care about has PTSD prepare to be in it for the long haul and don’t expect change to happen fast.

3. You can’t make your whole life about the fact that you’re ill.

There are voices on a loop in my head telling me to kill myself. I panic at the thought of leaving the house. If anyone I don’t know already so much as dares try to speak to me I completely lose it. I can’t even cross the road to fetch a pint of milk, for god’s sakes. What else, exactly, do you think my life is about right now?

The problem with PTSD being a disorder of the mind is that it gradually takes up all of your thoughts, until there really isn’t room for anything else. It’s a painful and scary illness, and it’s very difficult to think about anything when your mind just hurts. If someone you know has PTSD try to forgive them for being self involved, it is unavoidable at times and they do need to focus as much of their energies as possible on trying to get better.

4. But that’s not a symptom of what you’ve got (in response to me cutting myself).

Actually, no, I’ve still got nothing on that one.

Having PTSD means that your brain isn’t working properly, and so it makes you do crazy, inexplicable things. Hard as it may be to understand if your loved one is hurting themselves try to be sympathetic and understanding about it. Being judgmental of them could make matters worse as it may add to their feelings of isolation and despair.

5. Why have you had so much time off work for that? (locum GP: after I told him that I was being treated for PTSD after being raped – because he couldn’t be bothered to read my notes.)

Well, yeah, it was a pretty big deal, y’know? Think how well you’d like it. (And to the receptionist: Do you have any kind of feedback forms here at all?)

I can’t really tell you what’s the best thing to say to someone who’s been sexually assaulted. But this isn’t it. Try to offer sympathy and reassurance. Refrain from passing any kind of judgment on the victim. And offer to be there to support them if you mean it.

Related Articles:

Six Things To Say To A Person With Depression

You’re Depressed, I Have Depression – Here’s The Difference

It’s Not Me, It’s You

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32 thoughts on “5 Things You Probably Shouldn’t Say to Someone With PTSD

  1. My boyfriend has PTSD…or I think hes my boyfriend…we do everything like couples do on an everyday basis but he reminds me often that he’s single…He normally says it after were are sexual with each other…He talks about how women done him when he was over seas in the process of mentioning that he’s single…I care about him alot but I must admit he hurts my feelings because of the PTSD sometimes….He hasn’t told me it’s because of the disorder, I’ve just been reading about it… Will it be this way forever?

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  2. Pingback: 5 Things You Probably Shouldn’t Say to Someone With PTSD – Health Cure Corner

  3. Pingback: 5 Things You Probably Shouldn’t Say to Someone With PTSD | She know everthing

  4. I was involved in a horrifying crash in Alabama back in April. 6 cars and 3 tractor trailers were involved. I am a trucker and was rear ended by another truck, who then shoved me forward, and underneath the truck that was in front of me. The truck that hit me struck another car first, killing the woman in the process(I didn’t find out about death until next evening). It was a very terrifying situation, which looked like the scene from a movie.

    I have been to my doctor once a month for my lower left leg injury. After talking to him one day about anxiety issues while driving truck now, he says I am suffering from PTSD. I have yet to see a therapist, and for the longest time, I have been OK with what happened. Its been 5 months since the crash, and the last few days have been bad. I have been having bad dreams about crashes, fire, carnage, and hearing people scream.

    Sometimes while driving(yes, I’m back in the truck driving), something’s triggers the memories, and all of a sudden, I have to stop driving because I can’t sew from the tears rolling. The tears just come, no warning.

    I also suffer from feelings of guilt. No matter how much I tell myself that I was not at fault, I feel guilty thinking that somehow, I could have prevented this accident. And my biggest guilt feeling is the woman who died. I feel had I known about her, I could have somehow saved her, but i was laying on the ground with my own injuries. Just thinking of all this gets my anxiety acting up.

    Next trip to doctor will be to get a referral to a therapist.

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  5. Nice article, it really does make a difference in not saying those types of things. I am the creator and director of a documentary called DOGTAGGED it is a documentary on veterans with PTSD and their service dogs. I have PTSD myself and met with a lot of veterans that have it as well and the use of a service dog can really change things for people with PTSD I ha e experienced it myself. The doc will come out around March and if you would like to be invited to the premiere in southern california join the group on facebook. Premiere will be free for whoever would like to attend

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  6. I am a survivor of sexual, physical and emotional abuse. Grew up with Mum, Dad and Stepfather who were toxic and very abusive. As a result I ended up with PTSD due to a few triggering factors. I was able to get counselling and did work through all my triggers except for three. I finally got the courage to prosecute my parents. I moved back to England recently as that is where the abuse took place and where I would have to sue. I have returned to my hometown and am finding it extremely triggering. My partner has started to set off some triggers and has the sensitivity of an ice cube. I am afraid to leave the house, have nightmares and flashbacks, cannot sleep, cry all night and am very isolated. He at no time comforts me, cuddles me or attempts to show any type of support. Part of me feels like I am selfish to be upset as he expects me to do all for him. I am triggered constantly and he refuses to support me on any level. I cannot possible go to into battle with my parents in court when I have no support. He refuses to listen to me when I explain he is setting off triggers and does nothing to change. I am lost as I feel so alone and very triggered. Before coming to UK I was a very happy, confident woman who felt very sure of herself and the triggers were not bothersome. Am I wrong to feel as if this is my fault to be so triggered???

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    • It’s certainly not your fault that you aren’t well, and nobody should try to make you feel like it is. It sounds like something it might be helpful for you to discuss with your doctor, or therapist if you still have one of those.

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  7. I am a combat veteran and when I tell people that my ptsd is not combat related I usually get a sideways look. My PTSD is due to domestic violence. I am ashamed of myself a lot of times because I don’t handle situations well anymore. But what hurts me the most is finding out people call me names like crazy and psycho behind my back. I think what hurts even more is hearing people make fun of those with these types of illnesses. It’s not like we asked for these things to happen to us. I consider it a type of discrimination.

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    • I’m so sorry to hear that that happened to you. I think it’s mostly ignorance, I think most people assume that what goes on inside their own head is basically the same as what happens in everyone elses, and they’re unable to imagine anything that differs much from that. Still, it’s really not acceptable for people to speak about you in that way.

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  8. I think this is a good post showing that PTSD does not belong excursively to combat veterans. In fact, if given a choice between PTSD from rape or fighting in Afghanistan, I’d rather go to Afghanistan than be raped.

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    • I’m very sorry it’s taken me so long to respond to your comment, I’d somehow missed it.

      I’m glad you liked the post. I’d never thought of it like that before. I find a lot people don’t understand how I can possibly have PTSD because I’ve never been to anywhere like Afghanistan. Some of the people I’ve told about my diagnosis clearly think that what happened to me isn’t bad enough to have given me PTSD because it was one event not sustained like a war, and I suppose I’d always assumed that a war must be worse.

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  9. Darling, I am so thankful for this post. I went through PTSD when I was raped at 12. Even being beyond that, it has shaped and developed my entire adult life. I have an incredible distrust for people now. And I have not developed a very strong sense of coping mechanisms either.

    Thank you for your honesty and authenticity.

    -Ashley

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    • I had to re-read your comment three times to take in.
      You know, this is so comforting to me, that your PTSD has become better after that experience, which was pretty much what kick started my PTSD. I’m 15 (by a couple of days) and have been repeatedly bullied, attacked etc. for almost five years now, among other things but one thing that really shaped my life was when I was in year eight (second year-I too was 12) and the sexual abuse started. It was a boy of 16 at my school who would do these things every day, every time he got the chance; he frequently got friends to take photos, videos etc. and hold me in place while he did these things. One day, about a month into the school year he raped me in private. I was on my period and he let all his friends know that, and every detail of my private parts. It was unbearable. I didn’t even know I was pregnant until I miscarried in the school toilets about two-and-a-half months later. I was recently diagnosed with PTSD and it feels like it will never end.
      Seeing your post and realising that there’s a light at the end of this very dark tunnel was so brilliant, thank you so much 🙂

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  10. I am so thankful for your post about PTSD. After years of being separated from my lost love we have recently reunited … but he is suffering from PTSD. I am loving him by being his friend first and loving him from a distance being a cheerleader rather than Ms. Fix it (my old m.o.) I am currently living well with bi-polar depression and my years of successful therapy have given me the emotional tools to be compassionate to myself first and love myself first and not take on other’s emotions …especially those of your partner’s. I do not see it as random that your posts about PTSD popped up on my radar today. You are beautifully shining in the brilliant colors only you can bring to this world … and your sharing has shined light on my world today. Love to you.

    http://wp.me/p2oIOc-4n

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  11. Hey, I’m really sorry to hear about what you went through and what you’ve been going through. I know a bit about PTSD and depression and I get what you’re saying and why you’d get frustrated/mad about the shit people say. I wish you all the best and hope you have people you do feel safe around.

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  12. The info you offer is very helpful… but I hope my comment didn’t come across as criticism. It’s frustrating when people can’t understand what you’re going thru… or at least try! That kind of thing rubs me the wrong way too.

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  13. What do I think?, I would tell them all to take a flying fuck on a rolling donut down a gravel road right off the cliff to oblivion, in others words fuck off. But hey that is just me and I can be kind of a dick about things like this.

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    • The first one I have done. The second one I work with, so unfortunately best not to wrong the boat. 3 & 4 meant well but can’t relate to mental illness at all. And the doctor caught me completely off guard because I went in there expecting to see my regular GP, who’s lovely and been completely supportive about the whole thing.

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  14. People can be really insensitive… I don’t have any solutions to offer, sorry, but I can understand where you’re coming from.

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