4 ways to support a loved one with PTSD

March 11, 2015

“My help comes from the Lord, the maker of Heaven and Earth” (Psalm 121:2)

By now, most everyone has heard of PTSD or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Just to provide a little bit of context, here is a brief explanation of PTSD:

According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (2013), those with PTSD have experienced a horrifying event that has resulted in them re-experiencing the trauma, avoiding reminders of the trauma, having negative thoughts and moods, and experiencing increased arousal (such as irritability or trouble with sleep) for more than a month. In order to receive this diagnosis, one must be assessed by a mental health professional and meet certain diagnostic criteria based on what is listed above.

You can learn more about PTSD at the National Center for PTSD.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 3.5 percent of adults suffer from PTSD (2013). However, the National Center for PTSD states that twice that will experience PTSD at some point in their lifetime (2014). For veterans, this number can increase significantly. For example, it is believed that among Vietnam veterans, 30 percent have PTSD (NCPTSD, 2014). As of yet, it is harder to pin down a number for those who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, but it is believed to be anywhere from 11-20 percent. In addition to combat experiences, sexual assault can trigger PTSD, and approximately 23 percent of women report this experience during their military careers (NCPTSD, 2014). Men also experience sexual trauma while in the service and develop PTSD as a result.

Offering support and holding out hope

Supporting those with PTSD may not come easy. Those who are struggling with this difficult disorder may have a tough time with sleep. They may have a difficult time being in crowds. They may jump at the sound of firecrackers or a car backfiring. Things that most people consider enjoyable may lead to fear in those with PTSD—for example, going to the movie theatre, shopping at a mall or attending a sporting event.

It can be frustrating to have plans changed or cancelled, deal with someone who is irritable due to insomnia, or be awakened in the middle of the night because a loved one has had a nightmare, again. Sometimes, the symptoms of PTSD are even more severe and cause significant problems within relationships.

However, families can work together to cope with this disorder. One of the most important factors is the installation of hope. PTSD does not have to be something that the service member deals with forever. It does not have to be something that robs those with PTSD from having healthy relationships and joyful lives. There is hope for recovery and stability. And, having the family there for support, and possibly involvement in the PTSD therapy, may aid in the effectiveness of the treatment for the individual with PTSD (Monson, Macdonald, and Brown-Bowers, 2012).

Does someone you care about have PTSD? Here are some basic tips for supporting your suffering loved one:

  1. Let them know you are there for them, but give them space. Allow your loved one to take personal time outs so that they can work through some of their symptoms without taking anything out on the family. Don’t hover or constantly ask them to talk about their memories. Allow them to share what and when they want to share. If they want to share something with you that is too difficult for you to hear, gently tell them that you want them to be able to talk about their memories but suggest they share those with their mental health professional.  
  2. Learn to be flexible. If they are willing to try shopping, for example, be willing to leave when your loved one is ready to or drive separate cars and allow them to leave when they are ready. Don’t force your loved one to continue with the status quo as if nothing has changed. They may no longer like crowds or fireworks or large family gatherings. Your patience and understanding will mean a lot. And, remember, this doesn’t mean they will never want to go to the movies again. Just perhaps not right now.
  3. Participate in their mental health treatment. Understand what treatment your loved one is going through, and be available to help your loved one in any way you can. For example, help ensure that they have quiet and private space to complete practice assignments at home. Also, know the treatment plan and attend sessions if and when asked. It may also be helpful for you to participate in a support group for those whose loved ones have PTSD (Many Vet Centers offer these.).
  4. Pray. John Bunyan said, “You can do more than pray, after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” As Christians, we must pray. We must pray for those that are suffering, for those that love them, and for their relationships. Above all, we should offer those that are suffering the hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ. He tells us clearly in John 16:33 that we will have trouble in this world. However, many forget the first part of that verse, which includes this promise: “in me, you may have peace.” This peace through Christ is what can sustain a loved one during the trial and recovery of PTSD.

Taking the journey with someone who has PTSD is not easy, but support is not only important, it may also be essential to a loved one’s recovery.


Medical University of South Carolina (2009). Retrieved from https://cpt.musc.edu.

Monson, C., Macdonald, A., & Brown-Bowers, A. (2012). Couple/family therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder: Review to facilitate interpretation of VA/DOD clinical practice guidelines. Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development, 49(5), 717-728.

Laurel Shaler

Dr. Laurel Shaler is a licensed social worker and professional counselor. She holds master's degrees in Social Work and Theology, and a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision. Shaler is an associate professor at Liberty University, and is the author of Reclaiming Sanity: Hope and Healing for Trauma, Stress, and … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24