When a loved one is struggling with symptoms of mental health disorders and addiction, it can be challenging. Problems may be ignored or denied, but they will not go away. If anything, they will continue to get worse over time until it is undeniable a loved one needs help.
Every time a person is at home, they are going to exhibit signs and symptoms of their disorder. This may be mental health, physical health, or spiritual issues but these signs are all symptoms a loved one needs help. Looking at the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) helps people understand how to support a loved one in the right way.
Paramedics work stressful jobs, long hours, and face harrowing circumstances. They are on call for some of the most distressing times in people’s lives.
Sometimes, they are seeing people dying or dead, in car accidents, in other stressful situations, and are not able to process so much of it on the job. When they come home, they need to numb out and find space that is quiet.
Every time a person is approached at home after working a shift, they may appear to be checked out, watching television or staring at their phone. If the spouse is checked out, they will likely not engage in conversation and want to talk.
Numbing out by ignoring people at home is not healthy, it is a sign someone has disengaged and is not able to ‘check-in’ with reality at home. This might be a spouse, kids, paying their bills on time, or day to day chores. This is one sign they need help and maybe struggling with PTSD.
Full or Empty
A loved one who comes home from working their job as a paramedic is likely working off a glass half empty scenario. Their glass is probably empty after giving to other people all day.
Some people love doing this line of work and find it energizing, but they can still be depleted. It’s the people who find the work cumbersome after awhile that might be edging towards burnout, in need of a reassessment as to whether they are a glass half full or empty at the moment.
PTSD can take away a person’s desire to find peace and joy at the moment with their work or life, in general. A half-empty glass usually shows up first thing in the morning or when the person wakes up to go to work.
People without PTSD usually start their day with a glass that is empty, which fills up throughout the day with all kinds of events, stressors, and activities. They can work to empty the glass again by working out, eating healthy, and maintaining a routine that supports self-care.
If someone has PTSD, they start the day with the cup full or nearly full and have little room before it spills over into anxiety, stress, persistent depressive symptoms, and more. Watch how quickly a loved one experiences stress in the day. If they cry a lot, throw tantrums, lose their temper, or seem short with people a lot, it might be time to check in for help.
Past Tense Living
When someone talks about living in the past as if they should have done this or that or they used to do this activity, they are living in the past tense. Loved ones who work in stressful jobs have a hard time focusing on the current situation, especially with PTSD.
They tend to glorify the good old days but forget the days they did those things also took a toll on them, as well. Living in the past but not being able to face the present or future responsibilities can be a big sign of trouble on the horizon.
A paramedic who is not able to ‘switch off’ after work is likely struggling with some symptoms of PTSD. Co-workers who become like family and family who become like strangers can struggle with a loved one’s dealings with them.
It can feel like they are always at work but never enjoying the moment. They cannot find enjoyment or fulfillment in the current situation.
If the loved one is not as affectionate at home, turning away from being connected, and not involved with kids, that person may be struggling with PTSD or depressive symptoms. Reliving bad dreams, loss of short-term memory and sexual dysfunction are also some symptoms of PTSD.
Finding Support for PTSD
There is hope after a diagnosis of PTSD. Even if a loved one has no formal diagnosis, there is help available to find out if this is what is going on. The hope in healing from PTSD is that a person can find loved ones who are supportive and accommodating their need for help.
When loved ones deny they need help or are not available emotionally to connect with them, that is difficult. The person may struggle with addiction, symptoms of mental health issues other than PTSD, and need additional help getting into dual diagnosis treatment.
The right treatment for them is one that treats their individual symptoms with a focus on their overall health. Family therapy should be included, as well.
The best way to help a loved one is to offer support and caring love by asking if they would receive help. They may need support to get here and they may not want to admit it.
Whatever the reasons, they may deny getting access to care but a loved one that needs help should be offered opportunities to get it and be given space to pursue this treatment without fear of stigma or shame. This help will support the whole family, not just the person who needs it directly.
Don’t underestimate the impact of PTSD on you and your family. It is a treatable injury, not a life sentence. There is no need to live a life of quiet desperation or find yourself divorced from the love of your life.
Resource: “Emotional survival for law enforcement: A guide for officers and their families” by Kevin M. Gilmartin, PhD
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