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5 way to improve relationships when you have PTSD

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Support systems can come in many shapes and sizes: romantic partners, family members, neighbors, and work friends. Whoever they are, the people in your life can make all the difference when you’re struggling with PTSD.

Yet the core symptoms of PTSD—flashbacks, nightmares, avoiding reminders of your trauma, feeling on edge, constant negative thoughts—can make relationships hard. You might tell yourself you’re unlovable, fear rejection, or even lash out at people you care about.

It can seem easier just to be alone. But even if relationships are hard, they’re worth it. Here are some things you can do to build your social ties:

Be honest with someone you trust. You don’t need to tell the details of your trauma to everyone you meet. But opening up can help you to feel less isolated. If you don’t have a friend or family member to confide in, a survivor’s group, community or faith leader, or a mental health professional can help.

If you’re feeling hopeless and not sure where to turn, you can always call or text 988, the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. You’ll be able to talk to a trained crisis counselor who can listen, offer support, and share resources that may help.

Find ways to spend time together. When you don’t want to go places or do things that you used to enjoy with a loved one, it can be frustrating for both of you. Instead of dwelling on what you can’t do, look for new ways to enjoy each other’s company. Watch a movie at home where you can control the volume or try a new hiking trail.

Avoid letting your relationship be all about your PTSD. Ask your friends about what’s going on in their lives and listen when they answer. Practice the empathy and support you’d want them to give you.

Practice random acts of friendliness. Close friendships aren’t the only relationships worth paying attention to. Challenge yourself to smile at a person you pass on the street. Ask the barista how they’re doing. Repeated positive interactions—even small ones—can add up.

Get treatment for your PTSD. Treatment works. But it can take trying more than one type of treatment to find the right fit. One option is Freespira, a drug-free treatment program used at home to relieve PTSD symptoms in just 28 days. Freespira can be used alone or together with other treatments like medication or therapy.

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