In any given year, roughly five out of 100 people in the U.S. will develop post-traumatic stress disorder, the National Center for PTSD estimates. The condition is commonly triggered in the aftermath of witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event.
PTSD can be debilitating when symptoms are severe. Common symptoms of PTSD include recurrent memories, flashbacks (as if reliving the event), nightmares, emotional distress, feelings of anxiety and panic, avoiding reminders of the event, inability to concentrate, feelings of depression, and insomnia.
Coping with these symptoms can be difficult—not just for the person who is suffering but for their family members. They may struggle to understand what is happening and feel unable to provide the support their loved one needs. With that in mind, we created the below reading list. Our hope is that it can be a source of greater awareness and education about PTSD, as well as support and encouragement in your journey as you seek to love someone with the illness.
Books About PTSD That Can Help Affected Individuals and Families
Books about PTSD now abound. This list, though not exhaustive, can serve as a helpful starting place.
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
Having received outstanding reviews from Library Journal, Booklist, and the Medical Library Association, The Body Keeps Score has become an essential volume on the topic of trauma and its effects on physical and mental health. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk explains neuroscience in everyday terms so that readers can understand how trauma impacts the brain, creating PTSD symptoms.
Dr. van der Kolk also discusses the wide array of traumatic events that can cause these impacts to occur. From childhood neglect to war, the causes of PTSD are many. He then takes a comprehensive look at both the more conventional, medically sanctioned treatments for PTSD and alternative and holistic therapies that seem to promote recovery. Anyone looking for an in-depth examination of the topic as well as treatments will find this book extremely useful.
Loving Someone with PTSD: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Connecting with Your Partner after Trauma, by Aphrodite T. Matsakis, Ph.D.
“Practical” is the key term in Loving Someone with PTSD. This volume provides practical strategies for couples dealing with the condition. The work explores PTSD’s many signs and symptoms and explains how the disorder can impact relationships.
Dr. Matsakis then explores strategies designed to help couples reduce the impact of symptoms on their relationship, how to create a recovery-friendly home environment, how to improve communication skills, and how to create realistic goals and expectations for living and coping with PTSD.
The guide also outlines ways partners can support their significant other with PTSD while also caring for their own needs as a caregiver. Couples searching for actionable strategies are likely to find this book useful.
A Practical Guide to Complex PTSD: Compassionate Strategies to Begin Healing from Childhood Trauma, by Arielle Schwartz, Ph.D.
Complex PTSD is a form of PTSD that includes general PTSD symptoms as well as additional symptoms that are more likely to occur if the individual has been repeatedly subjected to trauma, such as childhood abuse. Complex PTSD has only recently begun to be regarded as a condition separate from general PTSD. The distinction is important, however, because of the additional symptoms and need to address all symptoms caused by the repeated exposure to trauma.
Schwartz’s book delves into evidence-based strategies for coping with the symptoms of complex PTSD. She explores today’s most effective treatments for the condition. Her extensive overview of complex PTSD and its treatments is sure to be helpful to people who have the condition, as well as to family members who are interested in learning more.
Internal Family Systems Skills Training Manual: Trauma-Informed Treatment for Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, and Substance Abuse, by Frank Anderson, M.D., Richard Schwartz, Ph.D., and Martha Sweezy, Ph.D.
Internal Family Systems Skills Training Manual is a highly effective resource for families of those with PTSD. The volume addresses other mental health conditions listed in the title, but since PTSD symptoms may include symptoms of anxiety and depression, the book, in its entirety, may provide practical advice that addresses a loved one’s symptoms.
In addition, the work offers evidence-based recommendations for techniques and exercises that can support recovery. Trauma can manifest in symptoms of PTSD as well as symptoms of anxiety and depression, which makes this book’s discussion of trauma-informed treatment comprehensive.
PTSD and Relationships: Loving Someone with PTSD, by Tim L. Gardner
PTSD and Relationships is an excellent guide for someone whose loved one has recently been diagnosed with the condition. It provides down-to-earth information about how someone with the disorder feels and how best to support them.
The guide details different strategies for helping partners cope with their loved one’s suffering; it also offers some useful “what-not-to-do” tips. Couples struggling to communicate may find the book’s focus in this area useful, too. Gardner describes how PTSD “scrambles” a person’s communication skills and makes it difficult to express themselves. There are also strategies for coping with communication problems that couples can practice.
Helping Your Family with PTSD, by Austin Bennet
In Helping Your Family with PTSD, Bennet draws from personal experience and the latest PTSD research to offer comprehensive information about the condition and its symptoms. The book’s chief goal is to help family members help their loved one while coping with their own concerns. It also takes aim at the stigma of mental illness and strives to empower people battling the condition through information about effective treatments. Bennet offers practical strategies for coping with symptoms, initiating self-care, and creating a safe home environment.
Books like these can be extremely helpful resources. What they cannot do is replace essential medical care. If you or a loved one is struggling with PTSD-like symptoms, don’t delay in getting answers. Schedule an appointment with your medical provider today.