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5 Things Not to Say to Someone With PTSD

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Most of us have had the experience of watching a scary movie and either not being able to sleep afterwards, or having nightmares about it. For someone living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), that is what their life is like on a daily basis. PTSD is the result of experiencing or seeing a traumatic event. The symptoms of PTSD, like flashbacks, anxiety, nightmares and insomnia, are the mind’s response to the trauma experienced. Daily triggers bring back memories and induce physical and emotional reactions that most people don’t understand. Upon hearing the story of someone who suffers from PTSD, here are the five things you should never say to that person.

• What is PTSD?

1. “But you were never in combat.”

PTSD does not exclusively occur in combat veterans. It has no bias of who it affects, and no mercy. Trauma is trauma, no matter where or when it is experienced. When it comes to PTSD, there is no trauma greater than another.

2. “Just let it go already.”

Asking someone with PTSD to just “let go” of their trauma is like asking someone with a broken arm to just use it. This statement completely disregards the person’s feelings, and lessens the severity of the event they’ve experienced.

3. “You need to move forward.”

When suffering from PTSD, the person afflicted might relive their trauma every day. Flashbacks of the trauma they’ve experienced make it difficult for that person to live in the now, or think about the future. It’s hard to move forward when PTSD has you in hand and foot cuffs.

4. “It could have been worse.”

This statement makes the person with PTSD feel guilty for what they are experiencing. They don’t need to hear someone else in the world has it worse than they do. Saying this invalidates their feelings and lessens the trauma they’ve experienced.

5. “Well, you’ve never mentioned it before.”

It’s beyond difficult for someone with PTSD to share their story. They fear people’s reactions, for good reason, because PTSD is rarely understood by someone who doesn’t know anything about it. This statement implies the person has made up their PTSD, and suggests that it is “all in their head,” which is completely and totally unfair.

If you know someone who has PTSD, do not use the above statements when that person entrusts you with their story. Instead, educate yourself on PTSD and the affect that it has on the person who has experienced such great trauma. It isn’t fair to stigmatize based on your own prejudices and ignorance. If someone has been brave enough to share their story with you, do not shame them for doing so. They’re already hurting, and your goal should be to help them and make them feel better. Lesson the blow of their PTSD, and educate yourself on what to say.

Originally published: June 10, 2016
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