Lifestyle Changes to Manage Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
by Amy Scholten, MPH
PTSD symptoms usually do not completely disappear. Therefore, you will likely need to continue coping with the symptoms and the problems they cause. Recovery is an ongoing and gradual daily process. The following lifestyle changes can help reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life:
Join a PTSD Support Group
Many communities have support groups for survivors of trauma with PTSD. Though it may be difficult for you to take that first step and attend a meeting, groups can provide additional emotional support and help you cope with your symptoms and other problems related to PTSD. It may feel awkward to meet new people and talk about yourself, but with regular attendance, many people find that they eventually feel more trusting and open. You’ll likely also feel better that you’re taking positive steps in your recovery.
Make Contact With Other Trauma Survivors
You need the companionship of those who can provide support and understanding. Increase your contact with other trauma survivors, possibly by joining a group of trauma survivors or a veteran’s organization. Increased contact with other survivors can help you to feel more trusting, more satisfied with your life, and can help reduce your symptoms.
Keep in Touch With Family and Friends
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.
Relocate to a Safer Area
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 area.
Join an Alcohol or Drug Treatment Program
Many survivors of trauma use alcohol or drugs for relief of PTSD symptoms. 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 PTSD, it’s important to get some 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 to services to help you stop using alcohol and/or drugs.
Begin a Regular Exercise Program
Walking, jogging, swimming, weight lifting, and other forms of exercise can help reduce physical tension. Exercise can also provide an outlet for your emotions, distract you from worries and disturbing memories, and can help increase your self-esteem and feelings of control. Be sure to talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program.
Get Involved With Your Community
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.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). American Psychiatric Association; 2013.
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... . Updated June 26, 2017. Accessed February 1, 2018.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
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Updated May 2014. Accessed February 1, 2018.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 12/20/2014
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