Ptsd Relationships Deal With Mental Health Stigma
Many people still misunderstand PTSD. Our society is gradually becoming more accepting of some of the more common mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety. However PTSD is much more than its associated depression and anxiety. Most people cannot comprehend the endless nightmares. Not many people have heard of disassociation. And our society is still very quick to blacklist anyone struggling with alcohol abuse.
Those Suffering From Ptsd Tend To Push People Away
Some people with PTSD push others away after being triggered. Some push others away before the triggering even happens, in anticipation. Others just find that the irritability and anger that runs through their lives poisons every relationship.
Not everyone affected by trauma has the full diagnostic picture of PTSD.
PTSD involves nightmares, flashbacks, repeated thoughts of the trauma. The memory haunts the sufferer.
Tip : Support Treatment
Despite the importance of your love and support, it isnt always enough. Many people who have been traumatized need professional PTSD therapy. But bringing it up can be touchy. Think about how youd feel if someone suggested that you needed therapy.
Wait for the right time to raise your concerns. Dont bring it up when youre arguing or in the middle of a crisis. Also, be careful with your language. Avoid anything that implies that your loved one is crazy. Frame it in a positive, practical light: treatment is a way to learn new skills that can be used to handle a wide variety of PTSD-related challenges.
Emphasize the benefits. For example, therapy can help them become more independent and in control. Or it can help reduce the anxiety and avoidance that is keeping them from doing the things they want to do.
Focus on specific problems. If your loved one shuts down when you talk about PTSD or counseling, focus instead on how treatment can help with specific issues like anger management, anxiety, or concentration and memory problems.
Acknowledge the hassles and limitations of therapy. For example, you could say, I know that therapy isnt a quick or magical cure, and it may take a while to find the right therapist. But even if it helps a little, it will be worth it.
Encourage your loved one to join a support group. Getting involved with others who have gone through similar traumatic experiences can help some people with PTSD feel less damaged and alone.
Also Check: Phobia Of Spoons
Ptsd Is A Very Real Illness
PTSD is a debilitating anxiety disorder that occurs after a traumatic event, like war combat. Experts estimate 8 million adults have PTSD to varying degrees each year in the United States. Like depression or other mental and behavioral issues, its not something that a person can snap out of.
Symptoms arise anywhere from three months to years after the triggering event. In order to be characterized as PTSD, the person must exhibit these traits:
- At least one re-experiencing symptom . D. installed security cameras in his home to monitor threats and had terrible nightmares.
- At least one avoidance symptom. D. didnt like crowds and would avoid activities that included a lot of people.
- At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms. D. had a very short fuse and would get frustrated easily when he wasnt understood.
- At least two cognition and mood symptoms, which includes negative self-esteem, guilt, or blame. D. would often say to me, Why do you love me? I dont see what you see.
D. once described his PTSD to me like a constant waiting game for ghosts to jump from around the corner. It was a reminder that bad things happened, and that that feeling might never stop. Loud noises made it worse, like thunder, fireworks, or truck backfire.
There was a time we sat outside watching fireworks, and he held my hand until my knuckles turned white, telling me the only way he could sit through them was to have me next to him.
He also had explosive outbursts of rage, which left me in tears.
Social Support And Self
Whichever therapy you choose, getting help can provide you with a safe place to express and approach your emotions. Seeking social support from trusted loved ones can also provide a safe way to express your emotions. Finally, writing about your feelings can also give you a safe and private way to release your deepest thoughts.
If your emotions feel really unclear or unpredictable, self-monitoring may be a useful strategy for you. It can give you a sense of which situations bring out certain thoughts and feelings.
Finally, if your emotions feel too strong, try distraction instead of avoidance. Distraction can be viewed as temporary avoidance. Do something to temporarily distract you from a strong negative emotion, such as reading a book, calling a trusted friend, or taking a bath. This may give the emotion some time to decrease in strength, making it easier to cope with.
Recommended Reading: Dehydration And Panic Attacks
Ptsd Relationships Should Never Be Abusive
Abuse can occur in many different forms. Physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, intimidation, sexual abuse, and financial abuse can all emerge within a PTSD relationship. But PTSD is never an excuse for abusive or immoral behaviour. If you find yourself tolerating abusive or immoral behaviour because of your partners PTSD, then seek help now.
Tip : Deal With Volatility And Anger
PTSD can lead to difficulties managing emotions and impulses. In your loved one, this may manifest as extreme irritability, moodiness, or explosions of rage.
People suffering from PTSD live in a constant state of physical and emotional stress. Since they usually have trouble sleeping, it means theyre constantly exhausted, on edge, and physically strung outincreasing the likelihood that theyll overreact to day-to-day stressors.
For many people with PTSD, anger can also be a cover for other feelings such as grief, helplessness, or guilt. Anger makes them feel powerful, instead of weak and vulnerable. Others try to suppress their anger until it erupts when you least expect it.
Watch for signs that your loved one is angry, such as clenching jaw or fists, talking louder, or getting agitated. Take steps to defuse the situation as soon as you see the initial warning signs.
Try to remain calm. During an emotional outburst, try your best to stay calm. This will communicate to your loved one that you are safe, and prevent the situation from escalating.
Give the person space. Avoid crowding or grabbing the person. This can make a traumatized person feel threatened.
Ask how you can help. For example: What can I do to help you right now? You can also suggest a time out or change of scenery.
Recommended Reading: Topographic Depression Definition
Educate Yourself About C
Not sure where to go? A great place to start is this FAQ about complex trauma. While its written with survivors in mind, its still extremely useful for loved ones who arent sure what this C-PTSD stuff is all about.
Ask your loved one if theres a particular resource that theyd like you to familiarize yourself with, or if theyre open to having a conversation about how complex trauma affects their life and relationships. If theyre interested in a conversation, make sure that youre committed to holding the space for whatever emotions might arise, and that your approach is validating and compassionate.
Pete Walker also has a great resource on the concept of co-counseling, which offers a nice structure on how to have these conversations in a productive and safe way. Id highly recommend it. You can also reach out to a therapist to facilitate this conversation between you if more guidance would be helpful.
Part of supporting a survivor is being open to learning and realizing that this learning is an ongoing process, rather than a single event. Theres no singular article or resource that will give you the expertise needed to support someone rather, in the process of building trust between you, youll teach each other how to create a mutually safe and supportive space.
You Must Care For Yourself
Caretakers in relationships with people with PTSD often forget to take care of themselves.
I developed guilt associated with personal fulfillment or enjoyment, because its easy to get sucked into an unhealthy cycle.
When I wanted to hang out with friends without having to spend an hour talking D. down or not check in consistently while I was traveling for work to let him know I was safe, I felt guilty.
The partner of someone with PTSD will have to be strong a lot of the time. To do this, you must take care of your own mental health.
Wen agrees. When youre in a caretaker role, you have to put the mask on yourself first, she says. It must be a conscious effort to carve out time for yourself. The caretaker has to stay strong if they are to become a support system, and they need to have support and healthy outlets to maintain that.
After years of baby steps forward and monumental steps back, I ultimately made the decision to end the relationship.
It wasnt because I dont love D. I love him and miss him every moment.
But the issues surrounding PTSD that needed to be addressed called for dedicated commitment, time, and the help of a professional things he didnt say he was opposed to. Still, he never made the choices to show he was ready.
The guilt, sadness, and feeling of defeat were all encompassing. For two months I barely left my apartment. I felt like I failed him.
Don’t Miss: What Is The Fear Of Darkness Called
How Do You Comfort A Veteran With Ptsd
A few ways to maintain self-care and help you stay healthy while supporting someone with PTSD include:
How Do I Talk To A Military Person With Ptsd
Helping someone with PTSD tip 1: Provide social support
Talking To Your Loved One About Ptsd Triggers
Ask your loved one about things theyve done in the past to respond to a trigger that seemed to help . Then come up with a joint game plan for how you will respond in future.
Decide with your loved one how you should respond when they have a nightmare, flashback, or panic attack. Having a plan in place will make the situation less scary for both of you. Youll also be in a much better position to help your loved one calm down.
How to help someone having a flashback or panic attack
During a flashback, people often feel a sense of disassociation, as if theyre detached from their own body. Anything you can do to ground them will help.
- Tell your loved one theyre having a flashback and that even though it feels real, the event is not actually happening again.
- Help remind them of their surroundings .
- Encourage them to take deep, slow breaths .
- Avoid sudden movements or anything that might startle them.
- Ask before you touch them. Touching or putting your arms around the person might make them feel trapped, which can lead to greater agitation and even violence.
Ask How You Can Help Us Feel Safe
People with PTSD often dont feel safe. This is where you can draw on that big heart of yours. Because you have now asked your loved one questions about their fears, youve learned some things you can do to help them feel safe. For some people, its a hug. For others, its watching a funny movie. For others, its a bowl of ice cream or an impromptu dance party in the kitchen or a drive on a country road. Whatever it is, the point is not to try and fix people with PTSD but to instead let them know youre beside them, wherever the road goes. Chin
Recommended Reading: Lamictal Bpd
When You Love Someone With Complex Ptsd
This article gives a brief overview of some basics about Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and what you can do to support yourself as well as nurture your relationship when you love someone with Complex PTSD. You may be wondering if reading this article will be helpful to you.
- If your partner experienced significant trauma during childhood and you find yourself in awe of all that they are in spite of what they have been through, yet uncertain at times about how to provide the right kind of support, then this article is for you.
- If you recognize the wisdom within your partner that is derived from their experiences, but struggle to access your own wisdom when you see your partner suffering then this article is for you.
- Lastly, if you sometimes see your partner as someone who would benefit from healing work but, are not sure of the right place to start then this article is for you.
This article is about how to bring your best self to your relationship by forging one that is defined by security, consistency, and honesty as well as understanding the importance of your own self-care in cultivating these bonds.
There are two areas of human development that are impacted by Complex Trauma. When these areas are impacted it can result in CPTSD. They are:
Lets look at both more closely.
Do Some Grounding Exercises Together
When triggers arise, there are a few evidence-based methods that people with PTSD can use to regulate their nervous system and feel more grounded or present. You might offer to sit with your loved one and do some of these practices together. In doing so, you may find yourself feeling more calm and present, too.
Over time, practicing regulating exercises with a loved one known as co-regulation can help your loved one regulate their nervous system. It can also help you and your partner feel more at ease and connected.
Practices that anyone can use to regulate their nervous system include:
While its important not to glorify the strengths one builds out of trauma, it can be helpful to identify, affirm, and appreciate the ways someone with PTSD has grown through their healing journey.
Identifying and affirming strengths may sound like the following:
- I admire your bravery.
- I appreciate your ability to cope.
- Ive noticed how strong you are. Do you notice your own strength?
Foo says that her own healing journey with complex PTSD has allowed me to feel less like, Im a nightmare person who cant do anything right and more like, You know, I have a condition that sometimes requires a little extra help, but it doesnt make me a bad person.
Recommended Reading: Which Organization Sets The Standards For Diagnosing Eating Disorders
Ptsd Relationships Can Induce Feelings Of Guilt
Children, particularly, take on the burden of PTSD in a family setting. They might assume that their own behaviour is the cause of their parents PTSD symptoms. Spouses may feel guilty for not being able to help their partner heal. And spouses can also feel guilty for wanting to get on with their own life.
Ptsd: A Growing Concern
For many people, the term post-traumatic stress disorder is exclusively reserved for soldiers or cops. However, PTSD is a common diagnosis that can occur in just about anyones life. According to the American Psychiatric Association, PTSD affects approximately 3.5% of US adults every year.
Individuals with PTSD have intense thoughts and feelings related to an experience that caused them trauma. They may relive the event through flashbacks or nightmares.
These thoughts and feelings often cause intense sadness, fear, anger, depression or feelings of detachment from others. People with PTSD will often avoid situations or people that remind them of their traumatic event.
PTSD develops in approximately one in three people who experience trauma.
From this definition, its clear that this condition can impact many more people than just police officers and soldiers. Some common causes of PTSD include a physical or sexual assault, serious accidents, abuse, torture, war and conflict, traumatic events and more.
As the condition is quite common, theres a probability that youll end up loving someone with PTSD. If this happens, you must understand how to help them cope with their condition so they feel healthy and safe.
You May Like: Irrational Fear Of Bees
Ways To Lovingly Support Someone With C
Person comforting their friend
I was watching the Disney movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame when I suddenly went into shock.
Right from the start, seeing Quasimodo be the recipient of so much gaslighting being told that the world wasnt safe, that he would never be accepted or loved, that Frollo had only his best interest at heart struck a jarring, but familiar chord with me.
I could barely breathe as I watched Quasimodos isolation in the belltower eerily mirrored the control and entrapment Id experienced years before.
Hey, my partner said softly, pausing the film. Sam, youre safe. Its okay. But if this is too much, Im more than happy to watch something else.
In the midst of an emotional flashback, my fears were disrupted by my partners tender assurances. I could only nod. Without another word, my partner put on Steven Universe my go-to show, having watched every episode at least three or four times, its familiarity and charm never failing to calm me down.
And I breathed as I was lulled back into a sense of calm, my partner sitting quietly beside me. If Ive learned anything over the years, its that sometimes our greatest healing can happen when we allow ourselves to love and be loved.
Many culturally competent clinicians and survivors alike extend this framework to include the oppression that marginalized folks face, which can so often be traumatic.