Tips for Managing PTSD and Enjoying the Holidays

Photo courtesy of the VA.

Photo courtesy of the VA.

The heightened stress that comes with the holidays can be a challenge for combat veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and their families. Dr. James Bender, a clinical psychologist with the Defense Centers of Excellence, compiled some suggestions.

Bright lights, loud noises and large crowds that come with the holidays can make holiday events troubling to someone with PTSD.

Crowds and Crowded Spaces

Christmas shopping can be difficult to manage for service members who patrolled while deployed. They may be overly alert and anxious in large crowds scanning for danger. Extreme anxiety around crowds is a symptom that can improve with treatment, but it takes time.


There’s nothing wrong with moderate drinking, but people with PTSD are at-risk for alcohol abuse and dependence. But alcohol interacts with a common class of PTSD medication called SSRIs, which can lead to impaired coordination, reaction time and judgment.

Social Withdrawal

Avoidance is a prominent symptom of PTSD. Social withdrawal symptoms can be managed with relaxation techniques to reduce anxiety and by taking a 5-10 minute “time out” during a party — a walk around the block or step outside for a breath of fresh air.

From a post by Dr. James Bender, DCoE clinical psychologist on December 13, 2012

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