Relationships can be hard for anyone especially when it comes to communication, trust and intimacy. However, for individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), it can be especially difficult to maintain healthy relationships due to the debilitating symptoms of the disorder. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in those who have either experienced or witnessed a traumatic event (Torres, 2020). These traumatic events can range from natural disasters to abuse and the impact they have on the individual can be devastating, making it very difficult to sustain healthy relationships.
Individuals with PTSD often experience symptoms such as flashbacks or nightmares about the trauma they endured, avoidance of situations relating to the trauma, and increased feelings of anxiety or depression (Bridges to Recovery, 2018). These symptoms are difficult to deal with on a daily basis, and as a result can affect the relationships of the individual. Survivors of trauma dealing with PTSD may go to great lengths to avoid any potential triggers of traumatic memories (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2020). This can involve refusing to go outside in fear of experiencing any triggers or even withdrawing completely from social interactions. Increased avoidance compounded with feelings of depression and anxiety can place a strain on relationships, as individuals with PTSD struggle to trust the people around them and enjoy social interaction. The negative change in their behavior as a result of their trauma can in turn affect their loved ones and elicit negative responses to their actions. A lack of understanding or frustration from their close relationships can further exacerbate symptoms in those with PTSD and a cycle of negativity begins to form (Bridges to Recovery, 2018).
Although it can be hard to maintain relationships, especially after experiencing great trauma, social support is incredibly important to the road to healing. Creating a personal support network will help one cope with PTSD and the trauma that they suffered from. Communication and understanding are very important and, in a relationship, it is important to establish boundaries. If an individual with PTSD is surrounded by people who understand them and support them on their journey to dealing with PTSD, then this can help speed up the healing process and make it easier to maintain a healthy relationship despite their symptoms (Axelrod, 2016). In addition, to people who know someone with PTSD, it is vital that you are giving them space for recovery while showing that you still love and care for them. Do not blame them for their symptoms or minimize their trauma (Villines, 2020). PTSD is a serious and very real condition that they are not at fault for. Empathy and patience is crucial to ensuring a healthy relationship and that they know they can trust and rely on you.
The symptoms of PTSD can be hard to deal with individually and even harder to deal with when in a social setting. The loss of control and fear can make one too anxious to continue relationships as they had previous to their trauma. However, support from friends, family and loved ones is essential to healing from the trauma and learning to live with PTSD. Those with PTSD, do not lose hope and be patient with yourself. Take time to slowly heal and gradually learn to rely on others. For those who know someone with PTSD, just being there, empathizing with them, and supporting them through their journey are simple things one could ask for.
Axelrod, J. (2016, May 17). PTSD & Relationships. PsychCentral. https://psychcentral.com/lib/ptsd-and-relationships#Keys-to-a-Successful-Relationship
Bridges to Recovery. (2018, October 10). PTSD and relationships. https://www.bridgestorecovery.com/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/ptsd-and-relationships/
Torres, F. (2020, August). What is PTSD? American Psychiatric Association. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2020, January 14). Relationships. PTSD: National Center for PTSD Home. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/family/effect_relationships.asp
Villines, Z. (2020, May 27). Relationships and PTSD: What to know. MEDICALNEWSTODAY. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/relationship-ptsd#helping-a-partner