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PTSD and Relationships

Lido Wellness Center Blog

PTSD and Relationships

April 17, 2024

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) isn’t just a plot twist in novels or movies. It’s a real and often harrowing mental health condition. And whether you are aware or not, it always plays role in a relationship. It’s up to you to decide how much it affects your relationships. Imagine carrying a backpack filled not with rocks, but with triggers that can unexpectedly leap out and take over your life at any moment. That’s a day in the life of someone with PTSD. So PTSD and relationships are absolutely possible, but they take some care and understanding form all sides.

So, What Exactly is PTSD?

PTSD develops after a person has experienced a traumatic event. This could be anything from a car accident to a natural disaster, or more personal traumas like assault or military combat. Essentially, if it feels life-threatening or severely destabilizing, it can lead to PTSD.

The brain gets stuck in a loop, replaying the trauma. This comes out often disrupting life in ways that are difficult for the person and likely also for someone in a relationship.

Traditionally, we link PTSD to veterans or first responders—people routinely exposed to life-threatening situations. However, it’s important to recognize that trauma isn’t exclusive to these dramatic scenarios.

Trauma can emerge from ongoing stressors such as bullying, sudden losses, or living in a high-crime neighborhood. Each person’s threshold for what’s traumatic differs enormously, which means PTSD can stem from experiences that might surprise us.

The Symptoms of PTSD and Relationships

PTSD can show up in your life or your partner’s life in various ways. It can affect nearly every aspect of a person’s life. Here are some common results of PTSD:

  • Flashbacks and Recurrent Memories: Sudden, vivid recollections of the traumatic event can intrude on daily life. These may come in the form of flashbacks, where it feels like the trauma is happening all over again, or intrusive thoughts that are hard to shake.
  • Avoidance: Individuals may avoid places, people, or activities that remind them of the trauma, significantly narrowing their world and daily experiences.
  • Hyperarousal: This might manifest as being easily startled, feeling tense, or having difficulty sleeping. Hyperarousal can make ordinary situations feel threatening, leading to heightened stress in everyday environments.
  • Emotional Numbing: Some may find themselves detached from emotions, struggling to connect with joy, sadness, or affection.
  • Irritability and Anger: People with PTSD may experience increased irritability and anger, sometimes with little provocation. This can result in sudden outbursts, affecting relationships and workplace dynamics.
  • Difficulty Concentrating: PTSD can cause trouble with concentration and memory, making it hard to complete tasks at work or school and manage daily responsibilities.
  • Guilt and Shame: Feelings of guilt or shame are common, particularly if the individual believes they could have done something differently during the traumatic event. These feelings can pervade thoughts and interactions.
  • Decreased Interest in Activities: Losing interest in activities that were once enjoyable is a frequent outcome.
  • Feeling Alienated: Those with PTSD may feel disconnected or alienated from others, even close family members and friends, as if no one can understand their experience.

The Ripple Effects of PTSD and Relationships

Navigating a relationship where one partner has PTSD can be like trying to dance on a moving train. You want to move in sync, but the ground beneath you keeps shifting. For the person with PTSD, there’s often a sense of isolation.

They might feel that their partner could never understand their pain, or worse, they might worry about being a burden. Meanwhile, the other partner might feel helpless or frustrated, not knowing how to provide support or when to give space.

Being the Supportive Partner

When your partner is dealing with the ramifications of PTSD, your support can make a world of difference. The essence of your role is to provide a stable, understanding presence. Here’s how you can refine your approach:

  • Listen Actively: Engage with your partner when they choose to share their thoughts and feelings. Active listening involves nodding, making eye contact, and offering small verbal affirmations like “I understand” or “That sounds really tough.” The goal isn’t to provide solutions but to make them feel heard and validated.
  • Educate Yourself about PTSD and relationships: The more you know, the better you can understand the challenges your partner faces. Learning about PTSD symptoms, triggers, and coping mechanisms can help you anticipate and navigate difficulties. Resources can include books, reputable websites, or even consultations with mental health professionals.
  • Stay Non-Judgmental: Remember, many behaviors associated with PTSD and relationships—such as mood swings, irritability, or seeming aloof—are not personal choices but rather symptoms of the disorder. Keeping this in mind can help you maintain empathy and patience.
  • Maintain Emotional Availability: Sometimes, just being there can be enough. Offer a hug, a kind word, or a listening ear. Let your partner know they aren’t alone, and you’re there to support them without pressuring them to open up before they’re ready.
  • Encourage Professional Help: Supporting someone with PTSD doesn’t mean taking on the role of therapist. Encouraging your partner to seek professional help can be vital. It’s a way to show you care about their long-term well-being and recognize the limits of what can be managed alone.
  • Set Boundaries for Healthy Interaction: It’s crucial to establish boundaries that protect both your and your partner’s emotional health. Discuss and agree on what is acceptable behavior within the relationship and stick to these boundaries firmly and compassionately.
  • Practice Self-Care: Supporting a partner with PTSD can be taxing. Ensure you’re taking care of your own mental and emotional needs. Self-care isn’t selfish; it ensures you’re in a strong position to offer support.

For Those with PTSD

Navigating PTSD and relationships can seem daunting, but open communication and mutual education can lay a strong foundation for understanding and support. Here are some practical ways to foster this dynamic:

  • Communicate Your Triggers: Let your partner know what situations or actions might trigger your PTSD symptoms. You don’t have to delve into every aspect of your trauma, but explaining your triggers can help prevent misunderstandings and provide your partner with clear guidelines on how to support you.
  • Share Your Needs Clearly: Be open about what kind of support you find helpful. Whether it’s needing quiet time, avoiding certain topics of conversation, or having support at large gatherings, telling your partner explicitly can make it easier for them to provide the right kind of assistance when you need it.
  • Educate Together: Bring your partner into your healing journey by exploring educational materials about PTSD together. This could include reading books, watching documentaries, or attending workshops. It helps normalize the conversation about mental health and ensures both of you are on the same page.
  • Set Realistic Expectations: Help your partner understand that recovery from PTSD is often a nonlinear process. There will be good days and difficult days. Communicating this can alleviate some of the pressure you might feel and help your partner be more patient and supportive.
  • Encourage Questions: Allow your partner to ask questions about your experience and what they can do to help. This can foster deeper understanding and prevent them from making incorrect assumptions about your feelings and behaviors.
  • Seek Therapy Independently and as a Couple: While individual therapy is crucial for dealing with trauma directly, couples therapy can help both of you understand how PTSD affects your relationship and can improve communication and emotional connection.
  • Practice Self-Expression: Whether it’s through art, writing, or music, find a way to express your feelings and experiences outside of direct conversation. This can provide a therapeutic outlet for you and another way for your partner to understand your inner world.

The Role of Therapy for PTSD and Relationships

Therapy helps. Individual therapy can be a safe space for the person with PTSD to unpack their trauma without fear of overwhelming their partner. But here’s where it gets even better: couples therapy can be incredibly beneficial.

It’s like having a coach who helps you communicate better, understand each other’s perspectives more deeply, and learn strategies to strengthen your relationship. It’s not about fixing someone; it’s about growing together and handling the challenges as a team.

Getting Help for PTSD and Your Relationship

Managing PTSD within a relationship is neither simple nor straightforward, but it’s far from impossible. With understanding, communication, and professional guidance, couples can navigate these waters. Remember, it’s okay to ask for help—doing so is a sign of strength and commitment to each other and to the relationship’s future.

If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD in a relationship, help is available. At Lido Wellness, we understand the challenges and provide specialized support to strengthen your bond.

Don’t wait to make a positive change. Call us today at 949-541-8466 and let us help you navigate the path to better understanding and connection.

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I am not just renewed. I AM NEW. I am found new in this freedom that breaking up the trauma has brought. I feel a true sense of clarity and oneness to the highest degree ever in my life. I was able to fully fall into trust with Lido Wellness Center and your clinicians. I was mightily impressed by the overall integrity, clinical and administrative competencies. You instilled such confidence in me about the paths and processes that lead to deep healing. I leave better and strengthened on all levels.

- Alumni, Lido Wellness Center

Going to Lido Wellness Center gave me a second chance at life. It equipped me with the tools and resources necessary to live my life the best way I can. I wouldn’t trade my time at Lido for anything. It was priceless to me and I’ll carry it with me for the rest of my life. I’m eternally grateful to the team I had around me that was dedicated to my recovery.

- Alumnus, Lido Wellness Center

Lido Wellness Center saved my life. I am endlessly grateful for the knowledgeable, empathetic, and supportive staff members that truly went above and beyond to provide a safe space to heal. Each staff member showed me kindness like I had never experienced before, and believed in me even when I was struggling to believe in myself. It is clear that the Lido Wellness Center team genuinely cares about every individual that walks through those doors, both during treatment and beyond through alumni services. Choosing to fully dive deep into treatment at Lido was one of the hardest and most rewarding decisions I have ever made, and I am now living a life that I never thought was possible.

- Alumnus, Lido Wellness Center

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