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Trauma Survivors’ Advice: What Not to Say to Someone With PTSD

June is National PTSD Awareness Month in the States, and the 27th of June is also International PTSD Awareness Day. Following my PTSD diagnosis after a traumatic accident, I am trying to raise awareness of PTSD. However, it is not just about generating a focus on the condition itself. My aim is to put the spotlight on the lives of those who live with PTSD every day. Due to the many misconceptions that still surround PTSD, trauma survivors are often an easy target when it comes to harassment and the belittling of their symptoms or reduced abilities. Whilst this often may start as a bad joke, it is often offensive and even hurtful towards those living with PTSD. So in this post, I want to highlight how not to behave towards those who already suffer, and what not to say to someone with PTSD.

Faith and positivity have helped me on my journey of recovery. However, I am not a fan of toxic positivity. And I have learnt that it is best to surround ourselves with people who understand us. Those who show empathy when we most need it. As someone with PTSD, I find that knowing I can open up and be honest about my feelings and what I am going through helps me to acknowledge my feelings and learn to cope with them better. And being able to open up is one of the keys to our healing. And so is also having a good support circle. You can read more about the prime factors that will help you on your recovery journey in my free e-book.

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Download your free e-book here

Read also ‘How to Heal Yourself: ‘7 Keys To Self-Healing’ A Trauma Survivor’s Guide

However, even within our support circle, we may still sometimes hear thoughts that are not helpful. Therefore, it is important that when interacting with people who are suffering from PTSD we are mindful of what we are saying. Therefore try asking yourself if what you are about to say will land correctly. I had to learn this myself. So, hopefully, this post will be a reminder for all of us. When talking to trauma warriors who shared their stories on my PTSD: My Story Project, one of the things that I asked was what were they tired of hearing. And what are the things the PTSD warriors wish they would rather not hear?

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Read also ‘Powerful Self Care Tips for PTSD From Trauma Survivors

What not to say to someone with PTSD

There’s a saying “Not everyone who experienced trauma will get PTSD but those with PTSD have experienced trauma.” The reason I mention this is because, I believe even to the smallest extent, every human has experienced some tragedy in their life that has deeply impacted who they are as a person. Now, with that said, not everyone is able to cope, recover, or even begin to recognize they may have PTSD because they weren’t made to feel safe enough to express how they truly felt or are feeling. No matter the level of trauma experienced, it still is trauma!

And I need people to understand that those living with PTSD are NOT overreacting, making things up in their heads, playing victim, CHOOSING to continue to suffer mentally, and least of all they are not weak!

PTSD survivors no longer want to hear, “You’re just overreacting.”, “Stop being so sensitive, just let it go!”, “So, and so, had/has it worse!”, “Just move on already, time has passed!”, “You need to forgive and let go.”, and unfortunately the list goes on…

In honor of PTSD Awareness Month, I encourage everyone to sit down with a PTSD survivor and truly listen to how brave they’ve become in being able to tell their story in hopes of reaching the next lonely PTSD survivor; and reminding them that they are not alone. That it is not in their heads. That what they experienced was REAL. And that they DESERVE to look forward to a life where they no longer hide in the dark.

Check out Wanda’s story here: The Effects of Childhood Trauma on Adulthood

My name is Caitlin and I have PTSD stemming from a sexual assault that occurred in college. I was finally diagnosed in 2017. And I have been in and out of therapy since. Therapy, specifically EMDR therapy has been super helpful. And while I do not struggle with my PTSD nearly as much as I used to, I still have my days. One thing that has not been very helpful in my healing journey was when people said, “Time heals all wounds.” My personal favorite was, “God allowed it for a reason,” as if the man upstairs orchestrated this whole event and sat with a bowl of popcorn watching my nightmare unfold. After all, it was a part of His plan, right?

I am definitely on the other side now but those comments were not helpful when I was in the thick of it. If anything they just made me feel worse. And they affirmed my beliefs that I somehow deserved to be raped. What I have learned though is most people do mean well. I have been in plenty of situations myself when I didn’t quite know the words to say. And honestly, that’s okay. In those moments it’s best to just offer your love and support.

When one of my good friends lost her 8-week-old baby girl, I was truly at a loss for words. But because I know first-hand what trauma looks like, I knew better than to say any of the blanket statements that we tend to tell people in distress. Sometimes there is beauty in stillness and silence. Just offering love and a listening ear can be what a person in severe grief and stress needs. And it’s important too to be respectful of a person who is experiencing PTSD. A little bit of empathy goes a long way. 

Read Caitlin’s story here: Learning to Thrive After Trauma

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Read also ‘What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? My Experience’

Having PTSD most of my life you learn not to share too much of your traumas. You really have to pick and choose who you share your story with at times. I have heard many times, “There is no such thing as PTSD.” There have been other times you decide to share your trauma with someone and you might hear, “You mean you aren’t over that yet?” Sometimes, people do not have a filter. Or they do not take the time to decide if their words are going to help or cause more harm. This doesn’t mean you should have to watch everything you say. It just means becoming more aware of your thoughts and how you present them to someone else.

A wonderful tool for the person with PTSD is to begin working with mindfulness. This means the trauma did happen, however, how long do we want to keep holding onto the story of it? It is not easy. A tool to consider using is chanting. When the thought appears, choose a mantra that will stop the thought and guide you to a new idea. Here is one to start with: I am not my thoughts (repeat 108x)

View Leigh’s story here: Mindfulness and PTSD

As a victim of a life-changing horrific motor vehicle crash, I found myself not only trying to recover physically but I also found myself trying to recover mentally.  Many crash survivors may suddenly be left to face insurance and legal issues for the first time. And unfortunately, many of us are further victimized by medical professionals that will try to downplay our injuries.  Medical professionals, family and friends may not believe us and may tell us to “get over it.”  This type of feedback is detrimental to our recovery and will make us second guess our struggles that are facing.

It’s important to remain strong and keep advocating for yourself at all times.  Any injury, whether physical or mental, should always be taken seriously.  If a medical professional is doubting your trauma and how it is affecting your daily routine, please request to see another doctor that specializes in PTSD.  PTSD is real and should be treated as such.

You can read Dawne’s story here: The Impact of Trauma – Nothing Can Prepare You

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Read also ‘How to Support Someone With PTSD?

Supporting Survivors

Having listened to the words of those living with PTSD, and based on my own experiences, I believe that we still have some way to go when it comes to supporting those suffering from PTSD. If I have learnt anything during my recovery, it is that trauma is very personal and those diagnosed with PTSD can suffer different symptoms. When you think about it this isn’t surprising. We are all different and therefore react differently to what life throws at us. With this in mind, we need to stop comparing and judging people. Even if we have good intentions. We should be careful not to belittle or invalidate the pain that someone is feeling or the experiences they have been through.

Sometimes our words and reactions can be a reflex and therefore not intentional. I have fallen victim to this myself. But I now understand that words intended to be comforting or helpful may not always be received as such. What would be most helpful for a PTSD survivor is to connect with them on their level, allow them to experience whatever they are going through. And then give them your hand and try to walk with them out of their darkness. And sometimes even our presence is enough, we don’t need to say anything. But if you want to say something, perhaps just saying, “I am sorry for what you are going through” will be more than enough.

It isn’t my intention to lecture or offend anyone with my words. I, along with other PTSD survivors, just want to remind everyone not to invalidate feelings or pass judgement or blame when trying to offer words of comfort. Because that is how we can show empathy towards those with PTSD. And empathy is what they need.

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Thank you and till the next blog post, 

Read some more real-life stories from trauma survivors here: ‘PTSD: My Story Project‘.

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‘PTSD: My Story Project’

Do you have experience with PTSD, or do you take care of / live with someone who has? Would you like to share your story in a guest blog post? 


I’m not an expert or a health professional, so the aim of this project isn’t to offer professional advice. Neither is it to pity those who experience PTSD. That’s not what I want. My aim is to raise awareness of PTSD. By sharing your story, you can inspire and empower others. You can highlight the methods that helped you. This way, you can encourage others to reach out for help.

And it may help you as well. Perhaps it’s something you feel like you’re not able to talk about within your closest circle and would like to connect with others in a similar situation. It’s nothing more than bearing an untold story inside you. The fact is that our society still lacks an understanding of mental health.  Therefore, I’ve decided to share my story and invite others to join me in this project and write a blog post about their experience. By working together, we can help destigmatise mental health problems and promote wellbeing.

To be featured

If you would like to join in and share your story on my blog but don’t have the experience of writing a blog post, this isn’t a problem. You can still contact me, and I’d be happy to assist you with the writing. And you can use a pseudonym if you wish to stay anonymous. You can share as much of your story as you want in a way you feel comfortable with.

The only thing I ask is that you mention ‘PTSD: My story project’ in your post and briefly state why you have chosen to take part in it.  You will be allowed to approve the post before publishing it, should it be edited.

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13 thoughts on “Trauma Survivors’ Advice: What Not to Say to Someone With PTSD”

  1. Great post! Sometimes we don’t know what to say so I love the advice you give. I especially liked, “Sometimes there is beauty in stillness and silence. Just offering love and a listening ear.” I totally agree. When I went through trauma in my life, it was more of a comfort to have people near me without saying a word.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, really appreciated! I am glad that you find the content of the post valuable and helpful. Thank you!

    1. Andi, thank you so much for your comment and I am so sorry that you also experienced trauma. I am also the creator of the PTSD: My Story Project, a safe space for trauma survivors to share their stories and so inspire others. If you would ever be willing to share your story, I would be happy to have you on board. You can email me any time Thank you and all the best!

  2. I really loved this post. I can relate to much of it in my own ways. People tend to say the wrong things often. Whether well intentioned, or ignorant, it can really mess with a person. Shedding light on this is such a great thing to do!

  3. This is such an amazing article! Most times people tend to belittle or invalidate the pain that others are feeling which is wrong in every way. Thanks for sharing this informative post.

  4. Such an important topic. I appreciate that you are highlighting the importance of how others treat those dealing with PTSD. It is important to remember if you cannot say something nice then do not say anything. Being present and offering help and other support can be such a gift too. Faith and keeping the right people around can be such an incredible gift for sure. I really enjoyed reading Katy. ????

    Pastor Natalie (ExamineThisMoment)

  5.  The month of June is designated as PTSD Awareness Month in order to raise awareness of the condition, debunk myths, and provide assistance.
     Avoid toxic positivism; for PTSD survivors, real empathy and a support system are crucial.
     It is important to know what not to say because some remarks can be upsetting and counterproductive to someone who has PTSD.
     It is critical to avoid trivializing their experiences or encouraging them to “move on,” according to PTSD patients’ testimonies.
     Supporting persons with PTSD on their route to recovery can be greatly aided by empathy, mindfulness, and cautious language.

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