The Impact of PTSD in Relationships
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is anxiety-filled memories of an upsetting event. Memories can include flashbacks, bad dreams, or scary thoughts.
Decades ago, the terms shell shock and battle fatigue were given to soldiers who constantly recalled gruesome things they witnessed. Over the years, the scope has broadened. We are now much more aware that PTSD can affect any person – even young people.
The experiences of an accident, disaster, near-death experience, death, work trauma (such as police, fire, and medical), an array of abuses, and personal violation can impact someone years after the event(s) happened.
Research shows women are about two and half times more likely than men to develop PTSD. Women are also more likely to seek social supports to help them. Interestingly, women are also more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD than men.
Though it can happen to either gender, data indicates women are more likely to experience PTSD from sexual assault or abuse. It’s not uncommon for men to have suffered from sexual abuse. In both cases, guilt, shame, and embarrassment are the primary emotions.
The same analysis suggests males, on the other hand, have more PTSD experiences from accidents, combat, and physical assault.
Oftentimes, these feelings don’t get processed until later (three months or longer) and can impact intimate relationships.
Being the partner to someone with PTSD can be a challenge. It takes patience and understanding. There’s a desire to want to help but uncertainty as to how. Should I ask or not and what do I say if I do? The partner wants to minimize or end the suffering so badly because they care so deeply. PTSD now impacts the non-sufferer because they start getting frustrated, angry, hopeless, and feel guilty for having those feelings.
One wants to open up but is afraid to. The other wants to soothe and comfort but is unsure how to. With the best of intentions, they want to connect on a deeper level. It’s difficult to emotionally connect to another when there’s the uncertainty of your own feelings.
The couple can start developing a divide and stop communicating. If not caught early enough, the cavern can get wide and the relationship beyond repair.
Whether you are a sufferer of PTSD or the partner of someone suffering from PTSD, there is a way to have the painful event(s) create a path to a stronger relationship with compassionate support, exploring, and coming to terms with the traumatic experience. PTSD treatment and therapeutic approaches that help you cope with the trauma and developing internal and external communication skills will help heal both PTSD and relationships.