PTSD and Relationship: Causes, Signs, Effects, Improvements

PTSD and Relationship:  Causes, Signs, Effects, Improvements

Tell me if this has happened to you,

You ended your relationship with someone and you are feeling upset. You are going through the trauma after you ended that relationship. This has happened to you because you were in a toxic relationship and you went through emotional and physical abuse.

If this story is relatable to you then you are going through Relationship post-traumatic stress disorder that may seem to have similar symptoms to actual post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event, such as sexual assault, warfare, traffic collisions, child abuse, or other threats on a person’s life.

According to the World Health Organization, roughly 3.6 percent of the world’s population suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

According to the NHS, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening, or distressing events. Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability, and guilt. They may also have problems sleeping, such as insomnia, and find concentrating difficult. These symptoms are often severe and persistent enough to have a significant impact on a person’s day-to-day life.’

Melanie Shapiro, LICSW, who specializes in traumatic experiences, explained what it can feel like to Bustle: “Feeling like your life or relationship pattern will never change, isolating [yourself]. Not engaging in new relationships, withdrawing from friends, and potential new partners. Flashbacks, too: in new relationships and reliving old experiences from the past as if they are happening now.”

People with PTSD start acting in a negative way in relationships. The changed feelings towards the loved one (reduced positive feelings, increased negative feelings) causes loved ones to respond in a negative way, which in turn triggers more of the person’s symptoms.

Causes of Relationship-based PTSD may include:

  1. Sexual abuse or assault- Sexual assault may include actual and attempted rape as well as unwanted sexual touching. Survivors may blame themselves and may have feelings of shame and guilt.
  2. Physical abuse or assault-  Physical Abuse is any intentional act causing injury or trauma to another person or animal by way of bodily contact. In most cases, children are the victims of physical abuse, but adults can also be victims, as in cases of domestic violence or workplace aggression.
  3. Emotional abuse– Emotional Abuse is: “any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, infantilization, or any other treatment which may diminish the sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth.”

Some of the signs that you are going through relationship PTSD are: 

  • Struggling to communicate or spend time with your loved ones
  • Having trouble trusting people
  • Suddenly becoming angry
  • Having intrusive thoughts
  • Having trouble with intimacy
  • Feeling afraid of making another commitment
  • Feeling worthless or unconfident
  • Feeling lonely and detached from other people
  • Having nightmares
  • Having difficulty handling emotions
  • Being overly protective of loved ones and preventing them from living their lives to the fullest

How PTSD affects relationships?

According to the National Center for PTSD (2018),  trauma survivors with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often experience problems in their intimate and family relationships or close friendships.

PTSD involves symptoms that interfere with trust, emotional closeness, communication, responsible assertiveness, and effective problem-solving. After experiencing trauma, survivors might feel depressed, angry, tensed, irritated, guilty etc. Living with PTSD may lead to a rise in depression

According to The British Psychological Society, those suffering from PTSD “may subsequently develop social anxiety disorder” and “become concerned about how they will appear to other people.”And this will limit the time they spend with their loved ones and they start avoiding social gatherings, get-togethers, parties, traveling others and gradually you stop spending time with others.

People with PTSD get angry really fast and turn into an aggressive person. They yell to their close friends and family members which results in a cold relationship. People may even engage themselves in self- problematic behaviors such as drinking and drug abuse, infidelity, overspending money, or abandoning responsibilities.

How to improve relationships?

PTSD is a serious issue. Relationships can be hard for someone with PTSD. It affects relationships along with the other aspects of life. Though you might go through trauma even after ending the relationship, you can heal with time.

You can work on your relationship. Working on the new relationships can help everyone involved. It can be beneficial by boosting self-esteem, providing companionship and togetherness, putting a focus on others, and helping the person cope with stress. 

People with PTSD and Relationship issues can work on:

  • Improving their relationships by having an understanding support system
  • Working on relationship skills
  • Sharing their feelings
  • Being creative, relaxing and spending time with yourself as well as with their closed ones
  • Finding ways to relax and loosen up with other people.

How can you help family and friends with PTSD and Relationship issues

  • Learning about their symptoms and that they’re not the person’s fault
  • Not being overly sympathetic
  • Working on healthy coping strategies
  • Helping them to follow a positive lifestyle
  • Making them engage in self-care

“Treatment approaches can include individual counseling and support groups,” says  Dr. Bates-Duford

You can rely on individual, group, couple, and family therapy. Understanding PTSD and relationship problems, symptoms, causes and seeking treatment as soon as possible can help both parties maintain a healthier and better relationship. 

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