Things Your Friend with PTSD Wants You to Know

PTSD doesn't only affect veterans.  

The DSM-5 states that a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis requires that "the person was exposed to:  death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence, in the following way(s):  

  • Direct exposure
  • Witnessing the trauma
  • Learning that a relative or close friend was exposed to a trauma
  • Indirect exposure to aversive details of the trauma, usually in the course of professional duties (e.g., first responders, medics)"

PTSD in the military is a huge issue, but it isn't the only one.  Many resources are targeted at veterans, but they can still help civilians who suffer from PTSD.  

"Moving on" isn't as easy as it sounds

"Just being happier" doesn't cure depression.  "Don't worry about it" doesn't cure anxiety.  "Leave the past in the past" doesn't cure PTSD.  I'm not just refusing to "seize the day."  

Triggers don't have to make sense

Trigger/content warnings make a huge difference, but they can't cover everything.  A song or a movie can trigger PTSD.  A certain tone of voice or someone's resemblance to somebody else can trigger PTSD.  I might not even know what is triggering my PTSD in a given moment.  If I'm avoiding something that doesn't make sense to you, it probably makes sense to me.  

I may or may not want to talk about it

This goes double if I'm in the midst of an episode.  One of the DSM-5 symptoms of PTSD is avoidance of memories or reminders of a traumatic experience.  I might not want to elaborate on what happened.  But, traditional therapy is proof that talking about it might help.  It's no fun to listen to, but it can make a difference if you're willing to hear what I went through.  

Good days do exist

If I was fine yesterday, I might not be fine today.  I didn't magically get better.  

PTSD is not contagious

I know better than most that I'm not enjoyable to be around when my PTSD is acting up.  It can be incredibly lonely if you avoid me when I need you most.  

I'm not mad at you

On the flip side, sometimes I really do want to be left alone and it has nothing to do with you.  If I need to lie in bed and process things for a while or if I cancel plans unexpectedly, it's not personal.  

And, mood swings might happen.  Please don't take them personally.  

PTSD isn't a bad word

I can't speak for everyone, but I don't feel the need to hide my diagnosis.  If you know about it, I probably trust you already and its okay to ask about it.  Even if I don't want to talk about the traumatic experience, I might want to talk through the nightmare I had last night.   Something as simple as asking what triggers you can try to avoid is seriously a breath of fresh air.  

You might not understand, but trying to means a lot

Empathy is an amazing thing.  There are thousands of resources online (I recommend The Mighty for personal accounts) that can give you insight into what I'm going through.  Pro tip:  tips for relationships with someone who suffers from PTSD can help with our friendship, too!

I'm not being overly sensitive

If I could turn it off, I would.