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Hobbies for People With PTSD

Posted On: 12/18/2020

PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a mental disorder characterized by severe stress resulting from a traumatic event.

Common symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Intrusive memories
  • Avoidance of memory triggers
  • Feeling numb or hopeless
  • Memory problems
  • Feelings of guilt and/or aggression
  • Being easily startled
  • Self-destructive behavior

While PTSD is commonly associated with veterans, anyone who has experienced a traumatic event can develop PTSD.

Development of a hobby may be recommended for people with PTSD because it can help lower anxiety, deter self-destructive behavior, and allow them to feel safely present with their surroundings.

Fishing

Fishing can be an excellent hobby for people with PTSD because it is typically a tranquil activity that provides an opportunity for reward (and possibly dinner). It also encourages people to get outside and get moderate exercise. It is important to note in any case of outdoor recreation that people with PTSD ensure that they approach it safely and understand their accessibility options.

There are many different types of fishing you can enjoy depending on your preferences. In fact, some people choose to exclusively catch-and-release rather than keep the fish. If you are unfamiliar with how to fish, fishing tutorials are widely available online, and it may also be a good idea to ask a friend or keep an eye out for local events for beginners. The difficulty of the hobby and the expense will depend on many factors, such as what type of fishing you choose and where you live.

However, generally speaking, it is a relatively easy and inexpensive hobby to get into. To start with, you will just need a fishing license, a fishing pole, a fully-stocked tackle box, and a cooler (if you intend to keep them). Annual resident fishing licenses typically cost between $10-$50, cheap fishing poles are typically about $30, and some fishing poles may even come with a beginner’s tackle box.

abstract painting
Abstract painting of red and white stains

Art

Art is another activity that is typically relaxing and may be a rewarding experience for the artist. Additionally, the spatial awareness involved may help people with PTSD combat dissociation and other cognitive issues.

There are many types of art, and which will be most appealing depends on you. The cost will also depend on what type of art you choose to engage in. However, the most cost-effective, relaxing, and easy type of art for beginners to get into are usually the more free-form types, such as abstract painting or acrylic pour. These methods only require canvases, acrylic paint, gloves, a thinning agent, brushes (optionally, for abstract painting), and mixing sticks and disposable cups (for acrylic pour). The costs of these items will vary.

Art classes in a variety of shapes and forms are available everywhere from YouTube to independent studios to local schools.

Music

Music is another hobby that can be free-form and rewarding. It can also be very relaxing, even if your chosen form of music isn’t typically considered relaxing (looking at you, thrash metal). Additionally, music may help people with PTSD channel their feelings in a healthy way, and perhaps even network with other people.

To get into music, you will just need an instrument (or your voice), and lessons. If you would like to try an instrument that is fairly expensive, it may be a good idea to start by renting first. Lessons are often available everywhere from YouTube to private studios to local schools, and therefore the quality and cost can vary significantly. Some common choices of instruments for beginners are the piano, the acoustic or electric guitar, the violin, and the flute.

gardening
Gardening can have therapeutic effects to help with PTSD

Gardening

Gardening can be therapeutic for people with PTSD because it is a rewarding hobby that allows you to care for something else and watch its progress. This hobby is an option for almost anyone, even if you don’t have a yard. Some space on a porch or near a window is usually sufficient.

To get started with gardening, all you really need to get is a plant, some water, and a good spot for it to grow. If you so choose, you may then want to consider buying additional equipment as needed, such as soil, additional pots, a bee-safe insecticide, gloves, and shovels. However, it may be advisable to start with one plant to avoid becoming overwhelmed. It will also be a good idea to do some general research on gardening, as well as on your desired plant, before getting started.

Hiking

First and foremost, hiking is great for PTSD because exercise can lower anxiety. Additionally, it will encourage you to get out of the house and may help improve your general health. Hiking is also a particularly low-barrier-to-entry hobby. All you actually need is appropriate footwear, sun protection, water, and some basic safety knowledge. For beginners, it may be a good idea to choose an easy, well-traveled trail near your home (if possible), and to let any loved ones know where you’re going.

Hunting

Hunting is another way to get exercise, get out into the wilderness, and enjoy some tranquil surroundings. It can also feel very rewarding and empowering to hunt and prepare your own food.

There is such a huge variety of potential games, as well as methods of hunting them, that it is difficult to provide a typical price range. However, you will usually need the appropriate license, a hunting rifle, and appropriate clothing. The cost of hunting permits can vary widely depending on factors such as your state and the game you intend to hunt. Meanwhile, a basic hunting rifle will typically cost about $200-$400. Acquiring a gun will also often require a background check.

A hunting education course will often be required as part of the permit-acquisition process.

watersports
Man surfing wave on surf board

Water Sports

Water sports are excellent for people with PTSD because they are a great source of exercise, and can encourage people to get out of their house when it is hot.

There is a wide range of water sports, including, but not limited to:

  • Swimming
  • Tubing
  • Surfing
  • Jet-skiing
  • Boating
  • Kayaking
  • Rafting

The equipment needed to participate in these sports can vary widely (and rental equipment is often available), but all you really need is to know how to swim. Swimming lessons are often available at local public pools.

Meanwhile, for more expensive options like jet-skiing and boating, you will need to not only purchase the watercraft itself, but also appropriate ramps, carriers, or docks.

Journaling

Journaling is a healthy hobby for almost anyone, but especially those with PTSD. It can help you process your feelings about events in your life, and provide you with a private, free-form of expression. There is no wrong way to journal, and all you need is somewhere to write, whether that’s on a computer, or with paper and pen.

Geocaching

Geocaching has become increasingly popular in the past couple of decades. It is another option that encourages people to get outside, get exercise, and interact with other people. You can think of geocaching as a worldwide scavenger hunt. Essentially, some individuals hide containers (“caches”) in various locations, and others use GPS to find them. All you need to geocache is a free membership (you can sign up online), access to GPS, and appropriate clothing. Geocaching can also be done almost wherever you are, as it is a worldwide phenomenon.

Quad bike on dirt road
Quad bike on dirt road

Motorsports

Motorsports are another good outdoor activity. This may be good for people with PTSD who want to take up a slightly more high-adrenaline activity. This is another activity with a huge range of offshoots. Motorsports equipment may include (but is not limited to):

You also may need appropriate transportation equipment, such as ramps for ATVs, or ramps and/or dollies for snowmobiles. Motorsports are therefore often particularly expensive hobbies, but there are also often rental options available. Rental options are particularly useful for beginners, in order to determine how much they like the activity, and whether they would like to invest more into it. Enthusiasts who take to the sport and purchase their own vehicles can then enjoy the side-hobby of vehicle servicing and maintenance. Raising your bike or ATV on a service lift can provide an opportunity to spend time in the garage or driveway tinkering, repairing, or modifying it in between rides.