No matter the type of PTSD relationship you and your loved one may find yourselves in, most PTSD relationships will encounter a similar set of difficulties to manage.
Some of these issues will become more pronounced in those people who are less accepting of their PTSD diagnosis or who remain largely untreated. And many of these problems can even arise within the relationship well before a formal diagnosis of PTSD is uncovered. You may be familiar with at least a few of the following struggles. Or perhaps you’ll tick of every last one. Don’t be discouraged. PTSD relationships can continue to thrive despite the daunting statistics and the many obstacles.
1. 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.
2. PTSD relationships endure more anger Anger and aggression can be more prominent when the underlying anxiety of PTSD is not well managed. Anger or aggression becomes a means for the person to relieve the uncomfortable feeling of being anxious. In the same fashion, hypervigilance can also lead to increased anger and aggression.
3. PTSD relationships battle social withdrawal Phone calls may go unanswered and invitations might get turned down. People with PTSD will struggle with social interaction if their PTSD is not adequately managed. Most PTSD relationships will ultimately feel the effects of this social withdrawal and isolation.
4. PTSD relationships often struggle with intimacy PTSD can affect emotional connection and libido. This is largely due to the associated symptoms of anxiety and depression. Your loved one can also be adversely affected by their PTSD medications. Additionally, you may have built up resentment and anger over time towards your PTSD partner, which also contributes to ongoing struggles with intimacy.
5. PTSD relationships deal with poor quality sleep Your loved one will likely be struggling with nightmares and bouts of insomnia. You might struggle to keep similar sleep routines as each other. Your partner’s nightmares may continuously disturb your own sleep. And your sleep quality may also be affected by side-effects of your partner’s PTSD medication.
6. 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 parent’s 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.
7. PTSD relationships may be troubled by financial insecurity If your partner’s PTSD is a result of their line of work, then it follows that their career may end abruptly. This leads to financial instability due to a reduced capacity to work or ability to move into a new field. Your income may also reduce as you take more time to care for your loved one. And private or additional costs for therapy and treatment will add to financial burden within a PTSD relationship.
8. PTSD relationships can lead to associated trauma A loved one may develop secondary post traumatic stress when they learn more about their partner’s traumatic experiences. Secondary post traumatic stress symptoms generally mimic PTSD. Therapists, trauma workers and caregivers are at risk of vicarious trauma, which is also known as compassion fatigue.
9. PTSD relationships become complicated by enabling In a PTSD relationship, we only want what is best for our loved one with PTSD. We want to support them, and we want to care for them. But many people fall into the cycle of enabling instead of supporting. Because, ultimately, enabling can look very much like love.
10. PTSD relationships can lead to caregiver burden Most partners automatically and unwittingly fall into the role of caregiver. But being a caregiver is an emotionally draining and physically tiring task. Caregivers must learn how to keep themselves healthy, both physically and emotionally, or they’ll be at risk of caregiver burnout.
11. PTSD relationships must manage an uncertain future A diagnosis of PTSD often leads to a loss of identity. It can mean the end of a career. Your own career and family focus may also be impacted. Everything suddenly feels like it’s been turned upside down. Without a clear direction, it can feel like you’re trapped in limbo for years.
12. 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 partner’s PTSD, then seek help now.
Stay tuned for our next installment where we are covering key issues of PTSD and Relationships!!