What Not To Say To Someone With Post-Traumatic Stress

Post-traumatic stress (PTS) is a complex condition, and one that is often misunderstood. In many cases people don’t know what to say to a person suffering the effects of PTS. Here are a few things to avoid saying to someone suffering the effects of post-traumatic stress:

There’s no “just get over it”
Because post-traumatic stress is an invisible wound, it can often be misunderstood as something that is imagined or exaggerated. This is far from the case. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Taking a stance of “just get over it”, or “it’s not that bad” can be very damaging when engaging someone suffering the effects of PTS. A better approach would be to show sympathy and understanding. Phrases like “I’ve got you”, “I’m here for you”, and “I hear you” are better ways to show support.

It’s about listening, not taking action.
One of the most challenging aspects of suffering from post-traumatic stress is feeling as though you’re the only one going through it, and that no one understands you. Sometimes, a listening ear can have a more significant impact.

Don’t take it personally
Symptoms of post-traumatic stress can present themselves at any moment, especially anxiety and emotional stress. These symptoms can also be projected onto anyone, whether the person suffering PTS knows them, or not. If you know someone afflicted with PTS, it’s important to remember that though these reactions may seem personal and pointed, many times they’re just the manifestation of their symptoms.

It’s all in their head
Again, because PTS can’t been outwardly seen like any physical wound, the effects of it are easy to dismiss. But you wouldn’t say “maybe it’s just in your head” to a person who’s suffered a severe and significant leg wound. The lack of physical visibility of PTS makes it easy to mischaracterize as an overreaction, but there are in fact physical symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

It could have been worse
This is a relative perspective. Things can almost always be worse than they are, but implying that a person suffering the effects of PTS or another invisible wound has it easier than a person suffering a physical wound is a gross miscalculation. First of all, there’s no value in comparing and contrasting the impacts and effects of physical wounds versus mental wounds, it doesn’t help anyone who is suffering the effects of either. But downplaying the struggle of a person suffering the effects of PTS in particular can impede recovery. It also does nothing to help end the stigma of mental illness in the military.

Addressing post-traumatic stress can be a challenge, both for those suffering the effects and for those who encounter it. But breaking down the stigmas and educating the public is crucial to transform the way we see and think about PTS and other invisible wounds of war. As we continue our mission to build Intrepid Spirit Centers and treat traumatic brain injury & post-traumatic stress, we’re also working to change the minds of those who don’t understand these injuries despite their prominence in today’s military conflicts. The support we receive helps us treat more military heroes suffering from PTS and in turn, helps further break down the stigma of mental illnesses.

Posted on June 24 2019 in Blog

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