Supporting vs. Enabling Someone With PTSD

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All too often, we label some behaviors as post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. This is a major disservice to all people who suffer from this debilitating disturbance. Many symptoms that are erroneously labeled as PTSD fall within these categories:

  • Addiction
  • Substance misuse
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Domestic Violence
  • Abuse

Enabling is always a concern and excusing unhealthy behaviors is the start to enabling. The reality is, we need to support our loved ones through resources and therapies that can help them improve their symptoms. 

Examples of Enabling Someone with PTSD

When we enable someone’s behavior, we often mistake it for being compassionate or supportive. You can be compassionate towards someone with a PTSD diagnosis without enabling. Here are some examples of the small things we do that enable a person’s bad behavior.

  • When we stop encouraging therapies – it’s easier to avoid confrontation with someone whose behavior is angry.
  • When we ignore bad behavior by hiding in other rooms.
  • When we tell the children to stop behaviors that trigger the afflicted.
  • When we allow for isolation. Alone time and isolation are two different situations.
  • Excusing their absence from family gatherings because they are in avoidance mode.

All of these behaviors negate healthy boundaries for everyone and promote the behaviors as normal. When someone has a PTSD diagnosis, they are still responsible for their bouts of anger and isolation.

therapy for ptsd

Helping Sometimes Turns Into Codependency 

Close relationships with someone who has a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis often lead to a co-dependent relationship. We try so hard to be “helpful” by making their lives easier. When they get angry, we accept it as normal and do not set healthy boundaries. When they want to isolate, we avoid trying to get them out of the bedroom or the house. 

How to Support and Not Enable 

You alone cannot save a person from their mental health illness. It is okay to set boundaries so that you are taking care of yourself. Providing resources and information to help them come to terms with their issue is helping and being supportive. Other ways to share support include:

  • Enjoy outdoor activities – hiking, swimming, running, or playing a sport.
  • Offer to provide rides to doctor’s appointments and therapy sessions.
  • Help create an emergency plan for when they are in crisis.
  • Check-in to see if they are eating a healthy meal.
  • Be available to talk when they are not in crisis.
  • Be present at family therapy.
  • Set healthy boundaries for yourself and enforce them.

When to Get Help

It is important to remember that there will be times where they need help beyond what you can provide. How do you know when it’s time for help? Here is a quick checklist to review:

  • If they are isolating and refuse to engage with others.
  • If they are talking about harming themselves or others.
  • If they are having bouts of rage that result in physical violence.
  • If there is evidence of alcohol or substance abuse or misuse.
  • If they continually disrespect your boundaries.


Getting help is not something to be ashamed of. Getting help shows strength and bravery to tackle such an issue. 


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