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Spotting the Signs of PTSD in a Loved One

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental health condition that can affect anyone who has experienced a traumatic event. Those who struggle with PTSD may not always have obvious symptoms — but if you suspect a loved one has PTSD, there are ways to help.

Our team of psychiatrists and psychotherapists at Boston Neurobehavioral Associates offers telehealth services for PTSD, and we believe that family and friends play an important role in identifying the signs of PTSD and providing support.

Here are some of the common signs of PTSD.

Recognizing the signs of PTSD in others

PTSD often causes internal symptoms like distressing thoughts, feeling on edge, and having trouble concentrating. While these aren’t necessarily noticeable from the outside, there are also obvious signs you may recognize in a loved one.

Flashbacks or nightmares

One of the hallmark symptoms of PTSD is re-experiencing traumatic events through flashbacks or nightmares. Your loved one may struggle with reliving distressing memories, either during the day or in disturbing dreams.

If they experience a flashback, they might suddenly struggle to communicate, act disoriented, or have a flood of uncontrollable emotions. At night, they may call out or wake suddenly in a panic.

Avoidance behavior

People with PTSD often go to great lengths to avoid thoughts, situations, or activities that may trigger memories of the traumatic event. You might notice that your loved one starts withdrawing from social gatherings, places, or conversations that remind them of the trauma they experienced.


Hyperarousal is characterized by heightened alertness, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. Your loved one might seem constantly on edge, react strongly to unexpected sounds or movements, or have trouble sleeping.

Mood swings or negative thoughts

PTSD can cause persistent negative thoughts and emotions. To an outsider, these might look like noticeable shifts in mood, a persistent negative outlook, or an inability to enjoy activities they used to like.

How to support a loved one with PTSD

PTSD should be taken seriously, and it requires professional care to get better. If you think a loved one may have PTSD, gently encourage them to seek help from mental health professionals like our team at Boston Neurobehavioral Associates.

Along with helping your loved one get the professional treatment they need, you can:

Educate yourself about PTSD

One of the best ways to support a loved one with PTSD is to educate yourself about the condition. Understanding the symptoms and triggers can help you approach the situation with empathy and patience.

Remember that recovery isn’t linear, so be patient with your loved one and understand that there may be setbacks along the way.  Avoid pushing them to talk about their trauma if they’re not ready, and always respect their boundaries.

Create a safe space

Make an effort to establish a safe and supportive environment for your loved one. Let them know they can come to you and discuss their feelings without fear of facing judgment or pressure. Strive to be a good listener and validate their experiences.

Support healthy coping mechanisms

Encourage your loved one to adopt healthy coping mechanisms to manage stress. This could include regular physical activity and practicing mindfulness or relaxation techniques. Consider getting involved in these activities together, and support them in finding activities that bring joy.

Offer practical assistance

For many people with PTSD, symptoms can feel overwhelming — and daily tasks may become challenging. If you can, offer practical assistance like helping with household chores, running errands, or providing transportation to appointments. Remember that small gestures can make a big impact.

You can’t force someone else to seek treatment if they’re not ready to do so, but there’s a lot you can do to support them, whether they get professional help or not. To learn more about PTSD and supporting a loved one with the condition, contact Boston Neurobehavioral Associates today.

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