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As the holidays are approaching, online communities for people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are increasingly discussing one thing — dread. If you have PTSD and are anxious about Christmas and the new year too, you are not alone.
Christmas decorations and gifts are all around already, and there is no denying that the holiday season is nearly upon us. People who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder often have great trouble coping with Christmas and the new year. How do you get through it as painlessly as possible?
Why Is The Holiday Season So Hard for People With PTSD?
People who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are very frequently triggered by certain anniversaries. If a traumatic event happened during the holidays or in the winter, Christmas and the new year are likely to be extremely upsetting to a trauma survivor. In this case, the survivor's reaction is very clearly connected to the trauma itself. For example, a veteran may have lost mates around Christmas time, or a sexual abuse survivor could have been assaulted at a family gathering.
Many people go “home” to their parents or family during the holidays. Christmas is a time when there is a lot of pressure to be happy and to outwardly appear to be cheerful. The holidays are also an outlet to display a sense of belonging and community. There are plenty of ingredients right there that make someone with PTSD go into full trauma mode.
If your family was a source of trauma for you, it is quite obvious that thinking about them or actually visiting your relatives is going to be a horrible experience that may instantly give you the urge to get drunk and stay that way throughout Christmas.
The very expectation to feel the “holiday spirit” and make your loved ones happy is also a very problematic part of Christmas for many PTSD folks. You may feel guilty that you can't (fully) join in with the celebrations, even if your friends and relatives have been understanding and accepting.
Not all PTSD relatives are that understanding, though. Reading one veteran's wife's blog, I came some very interesting advice. To paraphrase, she advised relatives to accept that “their veteran” can't join in with Christmas by celebrating it in the home and totally accepting their loved one for not being able to join in. I don't know about you, but I don't think watching a triggering event happening all around while not actually participating helps much.