Things Not To Say to Somebody with PTSD

These are random, in  no particular order (duh, that’s what random means, I’m stalling). Some of them are personal, some are only things I’ve read from somebody else, some I’m just guessing. It’s by no means a comprehensive list, nor is it an inclusive list- that is, not everything on this list will apply to every other person with PTSD. It’s not meant to be bitter. My intention is first to be helpful and second, at least occasionally, possibly entertaining.  I’m still rough drafting in my head as I type these words, so I have no idea how my loose plans about this are going to work out when I get to the list part.


You don’t look like anything’s wrong.  This one might be okay if it’s immediately followed by ‘you must be working really hard to hold it in,’ or something of that nature that acknowledges that yes, something is wrong, and honors the work somebody with PTSD is putting in for you to think things look okay, because, frankly, it’s utterly exhausting.

Other people have it worse.  Yep.  Other people have it better, too.  If I can’t be broken because worse things have happened to other people, you can’t be happy because better things happened to others as well.  You do get points for smug, though. My cousin had that and he killed his wife.   (Thanks.  That’s encouraging. I don’t know anybody like that, but I might know somebody with PTSD who punched their big mouth friend) I always think stuff like that is just a matter of mind over matter/it’s all in your head.


If you really wanted to be well, you’d just try harder. A variation of this is  “You’re just not trying hard enough.” ptsd trying It’s time to move on.  You are not my secretary, not my clockwatcher, my time keeper, my alarm clock.  It’s not your call. Why don’t you just get over it? You need to let go of the past.  You have no idea how much I would love to let go of the past. I am literally dying to let go of that past.  I’d let it go a million times over, gladly, joyfully, gleefully.  The problem with PTSD isn’t that I am holding onto the past, it’s that the past has a relentless, monster of the deep with many suckered tentacles grasp on me. PTSD get over it God told me to tell you….. I don’t know about anybody else, but I have never in my life had anybody start a sentence like this with me where the rest of the sentence was remotely helpful, useful, or even applicable to my circumstances.  The results have never been beneficial. You just need to remember that everything happens for a reason.  Yes. The reason people have PTSD is because of something very, very bad that happened to them and it changed the way their brains function in a measurable, visible via MRI, way.  Why did something bad happen to them?  I don’t know, and you don’t know either, Job’s Comforter.   But quite often, people with PTSD blame themselves for whatever it is that happened, so when you say ‘everything happens for a reason’ an almost kneejerk, reflexive response in their head is, “Yes, because I am a horrible person.”    I don’t know why bad things happen, and nobody else does either, and platitudes like this one don’t help. Just remember God never gives us more than we can handle, so He must think you’re really strong.  People with PTSD struggle with blaming God and they often lose their faith.  Comments like this are a quick ticket on the rocket train to outer darkness. They aren’t helpful.   PTSD please, share your ignorance some more Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  That’s a catchy song, and it’s a cute platitude of some use for, oh, bad days, broken appliances, jerks at the office, bronchitis.  But it’s not a universal truth.  Sometimes, what doesn’t kill you makes you a shattered pile of shards with no resemblance to your former self.  You should try these essential oils (which, coincidentally, I’m selling) My pain is not your marketing opportunity and if you can’t see this, you’re brainwashed by your company and if you are lucky, some day you will probably be embarrassed by this moment.  And also, you are not a doctor.  Right now, you are more like a pusher. You should try this special herbal formula (which, coincidentally, I’m selling)  See above. I am sure you’d feel better if you’d just start ________ (insert activity that the person is avoiding because it’s a trigger and they know perfectly well they will not only NOT feel better, they will feel much, much worse and will probably have a panic attack or some other melt down in the midst of said activity and if it’s a light episode, they will only have go to bed for two days afterward just to recover)   I think you’ll feel better if you just would _______________  (avoidance of certain activities is actually a symptom of PTSD, so basically you’re telling somebody with cancer ‘you’d feel better if you would just stop having tumours,’ or telling somebody with a cold they would feel better if they stopped sneezing.  We would if we could. We do not do these things for our own amusement)   Updated to add this from a FB comment: “I thought you were over that.” Because, you know, brain injuries are totally and completely curable with no such thing as additional triggering incidents, recurrence, etc.  and, honestly, sometimes what you thought looked like ‘over that’ was somebody faking it really, really hard in an attempt to fake it ’til you make it and make things easier for everybody, and they finally crashed and burned from the effort. Things that are probably safe to say, but only if you mean them and are willing to back them with meaningful action: I love you. I am so sorry. I love you. If there is anything I can do, could you let me know? I love you. Can I hug you? I love you. Can I hug you anyway? You are not a bad person. I love you. Want some chocolate? I love you. The world is a fallen place and I am so glad there are no tears in heaven. I love you. I’ve heard that sometimes people with PTSD struggle with faith issues, and I don’t know if that includes you or not, but I will be praying for you, seriously, sincerely, regularly.  Let me know if there’s something specific I should pray for, or if there is something else I can do. I love you. I’m so sorry.  Do you want to talk about it? I love you.  

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