(AscendHealthy.com) – Not all relationships end up as we imagined they would, and some veer us further from that “happily ever after” than others. When relationships become abusive, they can leave behind emotional scars that may make getting back into the dating pool difficult.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can stem from any deep trauma, but it can take on unique features when the damage comes at the hands of someone we love and trust so intimately. Here are the signs of relationship PTSD, as well as what to do about it.
What Causes It?
All forms of PTSD result from deep emotional trauma, which may stem from a varying array of triggers. The impacts on people who’ve survived abusive relationships can be so profound that some researchers believe it should be classified under its own condition: post-traumatic relationship syndrome (PTRS).
Some circumstances that may trigger this condition include:
- Sexual assault
- Physical abuse
- Severe injury or death of a loved one
- Emotional abuse
No matter the cause or how you group it, abuse at the hands of an intimate partner can change the way a person views the world fundamentally.
Research has found that a person’s trauma is often more dependent on the severity of the abuse than the length of time it occurred. Someone left physically broken and bruised after one event may suffer more severe PTSD than someone who’s endured numerous less physically damaging assaults. Many of the impacts are still the same, however.
Recognizing the Signs of Relationship PTSD
Depression and anxiety are common in people who’ve suffered this type of abuse, as are feelings of isolation, loneliness, and social inadequacy. The experience of any type of abuse in a relationship can be devastating and frightening. When someone we love — who is supposed to love us — is responsible for all that pain, trust in all future partners can fall to the wayside. It can also cause a lack of trust in our own judgment.
PTSD can cause a host of uncomfortable symptoms, including flashbacks, nightmares, distressing thoughts, and even physical manifestations. Some sufferers may feel ill, and they may develop body pain, trembling, or excessive sweating. Irritability, difficulties concentrating, and social withdrawal are also common.
In the case of relationship PTSD, symptoms may also include:
- Fear and avoidance of commitment and intimacy
- Inability to relax even at home or with friends/family
- Feelings of detachment or anger
- Inability to rein in emotions
- Becoming unusually protective of loved ones
- Becoming dependent on friends/family
- Self-medicating with alcohol, drugs, or food
- Turning off or numbing your emotions
These issues can make it difficult for the person to enter into new relationships. The person may also unintentionally sabotage potential love interests by lashing out or pushing them away. Others may feel a lack of self-esteem or confidence, sometimes settling in future relationships because they feel unworthy. Some relationship PTSD victims may also find themselves falling into another unhealthy relationship right away.
People suffering from relationship PTSD might feel as though they may never trust again, but there are ways to heal the scars and move on. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), commonly used to treat depression, anxiety, and several other conditions, has shown promise in treating relationship-based trauma.
CBT may also help survivors safeguard themselves against choices that might put them back into abusive situations in the future. Group therapy, which can help build and practice skills, is another good option, particularly if additional issues like drug or alcohol abuse have become factors.
Relationship PTSD can create some heavy baggage, but life doesn’t have to go on hold forever. It can take time to heal, no matter the route a person takes, and some people need more time than others. But in the end, reclaiming your happiness might just be the sweetest revenge. If you suspect you are experiencing relationship PTSD or need help coping, be sure to contact a healthcare provider.
~Here’s to Your Healthy Ascension
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