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Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.
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Help Develop a PTSD Etiquette Guide

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. Updated: Aug 1st 2008

gift from within dot org logoJoyce Boaz over at the wonderful PTSD website Gift From Within has asked us to post about a new resource they are developing intended to help family and friends of people coping with PTSD understand how to avoid saying the wrong things to their wounded loved ones and aggravating the situation when they mean to be offering comfort. She is looking for people who have PTSD to share some of their stories about what people have said to them that has been helpful, and what has ended up feeling hurtful:

As you know I run a nonprofit organization called Gift From Within for people with PTSD. Our website has educational materials including articles, essays, webcasts, stories, poetry, and book reviews for sufferers and caregivers.

An issue that comes up quite frequently from members is that well intentioned loved ones and friends repeatedly express their concerns inadequately and the words come out hurtful and awkward. It ends up making the trauma survivor feel worse. Here is one phrase that is quite destructive..."Why aren't you over it?" Even though a traumatic event might have happened a few years ago, a person can still get triggered and start to feel the old wounds and feelings surfacing. Please don't say you should be over it. A more comforting statement would be...."I understand that you are feeling depressed and anxious...you're remembering that terrible event from the past. Is there anything I can do? I'm here if you need me."

I thought that friends and loved ones of those suffering with PTSD could use helpful hints and tips on what words and actions were useful and comforting. Reading the stories written by survivors about how friends and loved ones were comforting at the time of their trauma would be a useful resource. So, I decided to create a new resource for our website and possibly a booklet called PTSD Etiquette: finding the right words.

This link http://www.giftfromwithin.org/html/truestories.html has stories we've received from trauma survivors and directions for submissions. Some chose to remain anonymous or use initials. You will see that the advice is so obvious but yet so hard for friends and family to put into practice. I hope some of your readers will consider sending us their stories so that others may benefit.

This sounds like a good idea to me, and so I am passing on the word. Please consider sharing a story with Joyce and company if you have PTSD and have a story to share.

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. was Director of Mental Help Net from 1999 to 2011. Presently, he is an Oakland Psychologist (Lic#PSY25695) in private practice offering evidence-based acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and addressing a range of life problems. Contact Dr. Dombeck by calling 510-900-5123, send Dr. Dombeck email or visit Dr. Dombeck's practice website for more information.

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