How to cope in crowds with PTSD

If you suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you might feel uncomfortable, panicked or scared when in a large crowd.

This is nothing to be ashamed of and isn’t your fault; it is simply a symptom of PTSD, and may be linked to the fact you witnessed or were victim of a traumatic event involving a large crowd of people.

Some people who don’t have PTSD struggle with large crowds, too, and in this blog post, we’re going to consider some of the things you can do if you’re faced with an event where there’s a significant number of people in attendance.

How you might feel in a crowd with PTSD

If you have PTSD and it relates specifically to crowded places, you may feel one or several of the following:

  • unsafe;
  • like there’s no simple way to escape the situation;
  • worried you might be caught off-guard;
  • anxious;
  • fearful for your personal safety;
  • suspicious of people around you; or
  • constantly on edge.

Emotions like those above may prevent you from leaving your home, increase your isolation and result in you being unable to attend events you may otherwise look forward to.

Despite this, overcoming feelings related to large crowds and PTSD is challenging, and you shouldn’t feel bad if you find it extremely difficult to do so.

However, there are some basic coping strategies that might help.

Identify and cope with the triggers

It’s not always easy to identify what it is that triggers your own PTSD when in a large crowd, and not all of them can be prevented, but if you can learn a little more about what your triggers might be, they’ll be a bit easier to spot.

We recommend reading this fantastic guide on identifying and coping with your PTSD triggers. They’re different for everyone, and while there’s no exact science to it, you may be able to stop the most common from catching you off guard.

Practice deep breathing techniques

Deep breathing has long been a method used to cope with anxiety and stress.

Often referred to as ‘diaphragmatic breathing’, this technique can help reduce your levels of anxiousness in crowded situations and bring about a calmer state.

The NHS has some wonderful tips on how to use breathing exercises when you feel stressed.

Try mindfulness

It’s not uncommon to feel like you’re in danger when in a large crowd, no matter how safe the area and people surrounding you might be.

This can result in distressing thoughts that focus your mind on all the bad things that could happen, and it can be very hard not to buy into these thoughts.

Mindfulness is an increasingly popular way to distance oneself from distressing thoughts by becoming more aware of whatever it is you’re thinking about and the environment. It works by using three to five minutes of your time in a meditative state designed to reduce the power and consistency of distressing thoughts.

There are some great apps you can download for smartphones to help practice mindfulness techniques, so it’s definitely worth a browse of your app store to see what’s available.

Lean on your friends and family

If you feel particularly uncomfortable in large crowds, it’s advisable to attend events with close friends and family who can support you if you begin to feel anxious or decide you need to leave.

Knowing that you have someone close by who can guide you out of the crowd if required may help you keep negative thoughts at bay, but you might simply find it comforting to know you have a familiar hand to hold or shoulder to lean against if you need to.

Equally, if you don’t want to attend an event, remember that you don’t have to. Your wellbeing is far more important, therefore don’t feel bad if you have to dip out of something when it doesn’t feel right.

If you need further support, we’re here for you

If your PTSD is the result of having been a victim or witness of a traumatic event that involved a large crowd, the Voice team are here to help you cope, recover and thrive. Whenever you’re ready, just give us a call and we’ll lend an independent, friendly and completely confidential ear.