Because PTSD is usually a delayed responses to events over which you had no control, it is nearly impossible to reduce your risk. However, you can reduce your risk for negative psychological consequences after experiencing trauma with a variety of lifestyle and psychiatric techniques.
When you are dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic experience, counseling can help you to understand and deal with these feelings. Dealing with these feelings may help reduce the chances that you'll develop PTSD. There is a variety of styles of counseling available. Talk with your doctor about the best one for you.
Many communities have support groups for survivors of trauma. Groups can provide emotional support and understanding to help you cope with your feelings. It may feel awkward to meet new people and talk about yourself, but with regular attendance most people eventually feel more trusting and open.
Work at improving your relationships with your partner or spouse, family, and friends. The mutual support will aid in your healing. You will feel more “normal” as you increase your social support.
After surviving a trauma, you are likely to feel that the world is a dangerous place and that your chances of being harmed are high. If you live in a high-crime area, your beliefs and fears will be even worse. If possible, move to a quieter and safer neighborhood.
Many survivors of trauma use alcohol or drugs to help them deal with or forget their feelings about the trauma. While this may seem to have some benefits in the short-term, it always makes things worse in the long-term. If you are using alcohol or drugs to cope with trauma, get help so that you can stop. A treatment program or group program is often the most effective way to stop using alcohol or drugs. Ask your doctor for referrals for treatment.
Exercise can provide a healthy outlet for your emotions, distract you from worries and disturbing memories, and help increase your self-esteem and feelings of control. Walking, jogging, swimming, weight lifting, and other forms of exercise can help reduce physical tension. Talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program.
Get involved in a community activity such as volunteering, especially if you’re not working. Whether you choose to work with youth programs, the elderly, literacy programs, or hospital services, or to take part in community sports, it’s important to feel that you are making a contribution.
Post-traumatic stress disorder. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml. Updated February 2016. Accessed February 1, 2018.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114915/Posttraumatic-stress-disorder-PTSD . Updated June 26, 2017. Accessed February 1, 2018.
PTSD basics. National Center for PTSD—US Department of Veterans Affairs. Available at: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/PTSD-overview/basics/index.asp. Updated April 17, 2017. Accessed February 1, 2018.
Last reviewed November 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 12/20/2014