PTSD During the Holidays

nice set up table for holiday occasion

How to Support a Loved One with PTSD During the Holidays

The holiday season is the best time of the year for most. For those with post-traumatic stress disorder, the holiday period can cause a lot of stress and may result in exposure to the common PTSD triggers. One of the main risks for PTSD sufferers over the holiday season is the tendency for group gatherings with family and friends. These can be stressful for people of all kinds, but for those with PTSD, large gatherings can be particularly stressful and tiring. 

If you have a loved one who suffers from PTSD, then it’s important that you understand the inherent risks of the holiday season. Knowing more about the risks will help you to minimize your loved one’s exposure to PTSD triggers, and can have a positive effect on the enjoyment that is possible throughout the holiday period.

Holiday Season Risks

PTSD can be caused by a wide variety of experiences. Throughout the holiday season, there is a high potential for loud parties, fireworks, and other sudden and loud sounds, or reminiscing about past experiences. These can all be highly stressful for a person with PTSD. Remember that: 

  • Group events can be tiring for those with PTSD, and they can quickly become overwhelmed.
  • People often feel pressured to attend holiday events.

You must understand the need to give those with PTSD the permission that they might need to avoid any events or gatherings that they do not feel able to cope with. PTSD sufferers can often have trouble relaxing and sleeping, and the added pressure of parties or even family gatherings can exacerbate these issues. Allow your loved ones the freedom to avoid potentially triggering events.

Understand the reality of PTSD

While social acceptance of the reality of PTSD is much more common these days, there are still people who assume that it can be ignored by the sufferer. Those with PTSD often find it difficult to talk about the disability, and that too can be a symptom of PTSD. Remember that sufferers have little to no control over their condition or the effects of it, and minimizing their experiences can create an atmosphere lacking in trust and support.

Never Assume

One of the common risks of the holiday season is that you may be tempted to avoid pressuring loved ones to attend gatherings or events by simply not inviting them. Don’t assume that they will not want to attend these events because even if your intentions are well-meant, it may simply add to any feelings of isolation or exclusion. 

In work environments, workloads are often increased over the holiday period, and managers and bosses must not negatively impact self-worth by easing up the workload. Keeping busy is an important part of living with PTSD, so don’t assume that sufferers will be incapable of completing larger workloads.

Key Tips

While the holiday season can be a particularly challenging time for those with PTSD, some simple tips can make it a much easier time to cope with. Remember to:

  • Recognize that they may need space and this isn’t a reflection of their feelings about you.
  • Avoid trying to ‘fix’ them.
  • Be a good listener when they want to speak and share their feelings.
  • Allow them to dictate the amount of time they spend with people.
  • Understand that alcohol can be very damaging to people with PTSD, so don’t try and get your loved ones to ‘loosen up’ with a few drinks. Instead, have alternative soft drinks available at all times.

PTSD can cause real harm to relationships, especially through the holiday season. If you have a loved one that is living with PTSD, make sure that you understand the potential triggers and take active steps to make the holiday period as safe, stress-free and welcoming as possible.

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