Affects of PTSD on Relationships

Affects of PTSD

Table of Contents

Did you know that the estimated lifetime prevalence of PTSD is 6.8% among adults living in the United States? PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a mental health disease that is becoming increasingly prevalent in the United States of America. Whether this is because of increased awareness and acuity or because of increased events of trauma, we need to understand the affects of PTSD.

The increase in the prevalence of the disease over the past few years makes it more likely that you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD. In fact, because of the interaction between PTSD and relationships, you may notice some of the signs or signals of PTSD in yourself or someone you know.

To learn more about how PTSD and how it affects relationships, keep reading.

What Is PTSD?

PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a mental health condition marked by worsening mental health after a terrifying event. Because it is an evaluation of someone’s mental health condition, recognizing and diagnosing PTSD can be difficult. It is also somewhat objective to diagnose someone with PTSD.

For example, one psychiatrist may diagnose someone with PTSD, while another psychiatrist believes that they just have extreme anxiety. That being said, if you believe that you or someone you know has PTSD, you may want to get several opinions.

How Does PTSD Start?

PTSD doesn’t start at a split second. Even though someone develops PTSD after a triggering, terrifying event, this does not mean that they have PTSD right after the event happens. Although, it is normal to see the warning signs of PTSD soon after a horrifying event. 

We should clarify that PTSD is not only in men. Neither is it only seen in soldiers.

Someone who was abused can develop PTSD. Someone whose father left them can have PTSD. Someone who was bullied can have PTSD.

You don’t have to be a war hero or a shooting survivor to have PTSD.

As we said, PTSD forms over time. However, it is developed from one large event or several smaller events.

It’s normal for someone to be shaken up after something terrifying happens. However, it’s not normal for that event or those events to haunt someone for months and years after it’s over. That is the mark of PTSD.

What Are the Symptoms of PTSD?

Most commonly, symptoms of PTSD occur within the month that a traumatic event happened. However, this isn’t always the case.

Symptoms of PTSD can show up years after the event happened. It may seem like the symptoms came out of nowhere, but some guidance can help reveal the root of these signs.

PTSD is a complex mental disorder that includes many different levels of signs and symptoms. We’ll categorize each set of symptoms and describe what behavior you may see in someone with PTSD.

Intrusive, Repetitive Memories

  • Repetitive memories about the traumatic event
  • Reliving the traumatic event (flashbacks)
  • Severe emotional distress when hearing about the memory or being reminded of the memory in another way
  • Unsettling dreams/nightmares about the traumatic event

Avoiding the Event

  • Avoids talking about the traumatic event
  • Avoids thinking about the traumatic event
  • Avoids people involved in the traumatic event
  • Avoids the place that the traumatic event happened at
  • Avoids activities related to the traumatic event

Emotional and Physical Reactions

  • Easily scared or startled
  • Always has their guard up
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Insomnia or trouble sleeping
  • Problems with concentration
  • Overwhelming guilt
  • Intrusive feelings of shame
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Easily irritable
  • Aggressive behavior

Changes in Thinking and Mood

  • Negative thoughts about yourself
  • Negative thoughts about life
  • Negative thoughts about the state of the world
  • Hopelessness
  • Problems with memory, including problems with remembering the traumatic event (blocking memories)
  • Difficulty in relationships
  • Feeling detached socially
  • Feeling numb emotionally
  • No longer enjoying things once loved

What Is the Interaction Between PTSD and Relationships?

Because of the plethora of signs and symptoms that come with post-traumatic stress disorder, the condition can affect relationships. To explain it, let’s build a scenario.

Let’s say that we have Bob and Nancy. They are a married couple of ten years. Nancy was emotionally abused in her prior relationship and has been diagnosed with PTSD by her psychiatrist.

Nancy wakes up in the middle of the night and has flashbacks. She has trouble trusting Bob because of her experience of being emotionally abused in the past. She shuts down during small disagreements with Bob because she feels like he might do the same thing that the man in her past relationship did.

Do you see what we’re getting at?

Bob hasn’t done anything wrong, but – because of the situation that Nancy was in when she was younger – there is a strain in the relationship.

Let’s note that Nancy hasn’t done anything wrong either. Her accusations and scared tendencies are not her fault. Rather, they are lessons that she’s learned and developed to protect herself.

Someone with PTSD may be accusatory and skittish, leading the other person in the relationship to resent them. It may also cause the person with PTSD to resent themselves for pushing that other person away, even when they don’t mean to do it.

In order to help Nancy, Bob should first educate himself on PTSD. Then, he should help Nancy feel safe.

The best thing to do would be to ask her how he can help. Maybe she needs something specific that she hasn’t been able to communicate up to this point.

From there, Bob and Nancy can begin working on their own relationship and how they can both address when Nancy’s PTSD is being exacerbated.

Where Can Someone With PTSD Get Help?

Understanding PTSD and relationships is difficult, but – when it doubt – you should try to find the person some help. If you believe that your friend or another loved one may have PTSD, you should reach out for help. Even if you think that you may have PTSD, you should call for help.

For mental health treatment, you can contact us. Having professional treatment is the best way to get the thoughts and emotions under control.