Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious and complex mental health condition that can occur after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. It can cause a range of symptoms, including flashbacks, anxiety, and difficulty with daily functioning. If you know someone who is living with PTSD, it’s important to be understanding and supportive. However, there are certain things that you should avoid saying to someone with PTSD. Here are some tips on what not to say to someone with PTSD.
1. “It’s all in your head.”
This is probably one of the worst things you can say to someone with PTSD. It implies that their symptoms are not real and that they are making them up. It minimizes their experience and invalidates their feelings. It is also not helpful in any way.
2. “It’s not that bad.”
This is another invalidating statement. It suggests that the person with PTSD is overreacting or exaggerating their experience. It downplays what they are going through and can make them feel like they are not being taken seriously.
3. “Just relax.”
Telling someone with PTSD to relax is like telling a person with a broken leg to walk it off. PTSD is a potentially crippling mental illness that requires professional treatment – it is not something you can just relax your way through.
4. “You should be over it by now.”
This statement implies that the patient is not “working hard enough” at recovery or they are not strong enough. It puts unnecessary pressure on them and can make them feel like a failure.
5. “You’re just looking for attention.”
This is an incredibly hurtful and insulting thing to say to someone with PTSD. It suggests that their symptoms are not genuine or they are acting up to get attention, which could not be further from the truth.
6. “Get over it” or “Just snap out of it.”
This is another ignorant statement that can be exceedingly hurtful to someone with PTSD. It implies that the person with PTSD is choosing to remain ill and that recovery is simply a matter of willpower.
7. “People have been through worse.”
This phrase is often used in an attempt to make the person feel better by comparison, but it can have the opposite effect. It can make the person feel like their experience is not valid or important. But the truth is that people react to trauma in different ways. Just because someone has been through a supposedly worse situation does not make other people’s experiences any less valid.
8. “I know how you feel.”
You may use this phrase in an attempt to be empathetic. But in most cases, it may come across as insincere or even arrogant. Even if you have experienced a similar trauma yourself, it is impossible to know precisely how the other person feels. So it’s best to avoid this phrase altogether.
9. “You’re too sensitive.”
People with PTSD tend to be very sensitive to things or situations that remind them of their trauma. To an outside observer, this might seem like overreacting. But it is important to remember that the person with PTSD is reacting in a completely normal way for someone in their situation.
10. “You’re just being paranoid.”
PTSD can cause people to feel like they are in danger even when they are not. This can lead to feelings of paranoia and anxiety. Telling the person that they are “just being paranoid” is not only unhelpful but also a show of ignorance towards PTSD and other similar mental illnesses.
The Bottom Line
It’s important to be sensitive and understanding when interacting with someone who is living with PTSD. Avoid saying things that may be dismissive or invalidating of their experience, and instead focus on offering support and encouragement. Remember that everyone’s journey with PTSD is unique, and it’s important to be patient and nonjudgmental as they navigate their recovery. By showing understanding and compassion, you can help your loved one feel supported and cared for during this challenging time.