What is Psychological Invalidation and What Are Healthy Responses to It?

posted in Mental Health, Recovery

The psychology of how people respond to one another is quite interesting. When it comes to families, some people can be affirming while others struggle to validate their children or other loved ones.

Those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may struggle with feeling validated by those to whom they explain their condition. Difficult symptoms including nightmares and insomnia can get worse with PTSD.

Feeling invalidated can add to the stigma and fear about connecting with others over their illness. Find out more about how to respond in a healthy way when a loved one reveals they are dealing with PTSD.

Sleep Disorders and PTSD

Sleep helps people feel better, function, and deal with their emotions in a healthy way. Getting a full night’s sleep with symptoms of PTSD may be challenging for people.

The overall quality of sleep people with PTSD get is lower, along with decreases in time that they stay asleep. Nightmares and flashbacks are also common denominators for people with PTSD.

This disruption to the sleep cycle can greatly impact a person’s ability to function every day and contribute to health issues later down the road since it builds on itself. 

Nightmares with PTSD

PTSD is considered to be a disorder with nightmares as a symptom. Although people may be frightened by normal nightmares, they don’t feel real.

They may not even be real events they are reliving in their dreams over and over, making it an even more traumatic nightmare. PTSD nightmares can involve replaying traumatic events they witnessed or took part in.

People who suffer from PTSD can experience past abuse or violence that is replayed in nightmares. Experiencing these nightmares feels like reliving what happened over and over again, without a way to process the trauma.

People who witnessed the towers fall in 9/11 are an example of people who have PTSD, along with veterans and first responders who experience traumatic events almost daily while on duty. Even though these nightmares are a hallmark of the disorder, it makes people dread sleep. They may take drugs to help them stay awake to avoid sleep and experience suicidal thoughts as a result.

Treating Sleep Disorders 

Sleep disorders are a critical part of a healing assessment plan for people with PTSD. They may also need help with addiction disorder treatment.

Although an assessment of their experiences and symptoms is crucial, they need cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), other therapies, and medication to help in combination with the treatment of dual diagnosis conditions. Even if PTSD were the only condition, they might need various treatments to help.


Giving medication for people with PTSD with nightmares can help mitigate some of the symptoms. Depending on the drugs, it can increase REM sleep time.

Some proposed medications may have side effects. It is important to speak with a treating physician to sort out what to do and how to handle any side effects.

Medication is going to differ, but a person should be willing to do what they can to help themselves find support and what feels comfortable. If medication is not working, talk to the doctor about making the necessary changes to them.

Prevention Methods

To prevent nightmares, it helps to do a few things in the environment to make it more comfortable to sleep and less triggering. A comfortable sleeping place is going to differ for each person.

Good sleep hygiene involves adequate sleep and keeping blue light to a minimum one hour prior to bed. This is crucial especially if sleep is already at a premium.

Sleeping when needed helps but don’t sleep off circadian rhythms if possible. Be awake when it is light, with naps, and sleep when it is dark outside.

It may be hard if a person works shifts. In this instance, sleep when the body needs it and seek more time to sleep than giving up good sleep for more activity, like pursuing hobbies or outside work activities.

Stressful situations can be harmful to a person’s ability to navigate life with PTSD. To help someone with PTSD nightmares, offer support where possible. Listen to their stories, offer advice if they ask and encourage them to seek additional help when they need more than they are getting. 

Finding Hope

Therapy is available, treatment for addiction is available, and getting enough sleep can be helpful, but none of it matters if a person feels isolated or alone. That can keep a person from feeling connected to the community and others who understand the challenges they face.

To find hope means to reach a point where what is happening is not working any longer and the person admits that they need help. They let go of denial and seek spaces to heal such as dual diagnosis treatment programs.

Hope is a space where people can reach out to family and friends and seek support while in recovery. This means when going to family functions, they understand their needs and don’t expect them to do more than they are capable.

There are also more sober opportunities than not to engage with family. Family can be really helpful in the process of healing in recovery.

People who struggle with PTSD need healthy families around them and should be working together in individual and family therapy to move towards healing as a whole.


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