The holidays are a time of year when we want to spend time with loved ones and be surrounded by the joy of the season. This, however, may be a distant thought if you or your loved one has recently returned from a deployment and has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While many people want to share the holidays with family and friends, the person with PTSD may want to avoid these social situations.
The service member may be triggered by all the elements that make the holiday festive like the lights, music and crowds and this may increase their feelings of loneliness, anger, frustration and cause them to isolate themselves or start abusing substances. Adjusting to these big changes will not be easy for anyone in the family and it is helpful to know that there are some things that can be done differently around the holidays to make them more manageable when considering the traumatized person. The family may need to become educated on PTSD and what changes they may see in their loved one. A great alternative to the same old traditions is to create new ones, redefine what the holidays mean to your family now. Some examples of change could be instead of a turkey dinner, donate your time at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. It could look like keeping the festivities at your home verses going to others people’s homes or into large crowds, which will create a sense of comfort and safety for the individual with PTSD.
What is most important is to be sensitive to the service member and respect the needed transition period for them. The best we can do is learning how to listen and try our best to understand why things may be hard for them to process at the moment and to practice patience. The life of a person with PTSD is overwhelming for them and being supportive and working with them will increase positive family memories for this holiday season.
If you or anyone you love is struggling with PTSD, please call us today at 1-855-GENPSYCH.