Coping and supportBy Mayo Clinic staff
If stress and other problems caused by a traumatic event affect your life, seeing your health care professional is an important first step. But you can take actions to help yourself cope as you continue with treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. Things you can do include:
- Follow your health professional's instructions. Although it may take a while to feel benefits from therapy or medications, most people do recover. Remind yourself that it takes time. Healing won't come overnight. Following your treatment plan will help move you forward.
- Take care of yourself. Get enough rest, eat a balanced diet, exercise and take time to relax. Avoid caffeine and nicotine, which can worsen anxiety.
- Don't self-medicate. Turning to alcohol or drugs to numb your feelings isn't healthy, even though it may be a tempting way to cope. It can lead to more problems down the road and prevent real healing.
- Break the cycle. When you feel anxious, take a brisk walk or jump into a hobby to re-focus.
- Talk to someone. Stay connected with supportive and caring family, friends, faith leaders or others. You don't have to talk about what happened, if you don't want to. Just sharing time with loved ones can offer healing and comfort.
- Consider a support group. Many communities have support groups geared to specific situations. Ask your health care professional for help finding one, look in your local phone book or contact your community's social services system.
When someone you love has PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder can significantly strain the emotional and mental health of the affected person's caregivers and loved ones. In fact, the term "compassion fatigue" was coined to describe the feelings, such as depression and helplessness, that commonly develop in those close to a person with PTSD.
Hearing about the trauma that led to your loved one's PTSD may be extremely painful for you, and may cause you to relive difficult events in your own life. The person you love may seem like a different person than you knew before the trauma — angry and irritable, for example, or withdrawn and depressed.
If someone you love has PTSD, you may find yourself avoiding his or her attempts to talk about the trauma or feeling hopeless that your loved one will get better. At the same time, you may feel guilty that you can't fix your loved one or hurry up his or her process of healing.
In order to take care of yourself and your loved one, it's critical that you make your own mental health a priority. Eat right, exercise and rest. Continue to take time alone or with friends, doing activities that help you recharge. If you continue to have difficulty coping, talk with your doctor. He or she may refer you to a therapist who can help you work through your emotions.
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