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PTSD and Relationships
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious and in some cases life-threatening disorder characterized by re-experiencing traumatic events, changes in mood, severe anxiety, avoidance of triggers and intrusive memories. PTSD therapy may include medications and psychotherapy aimed at staying present and managing your symptoms. But for the spouse or partner of a person suffering from PTSD, the challenges of maintaining a relationship can feel overwhelming.
PTSD can impact intimate relationships in the following ways:
- Intimacy itself may be a trigger. For rape survivors, sexual intimacy may be a trigger for intrusive memories or re-experiencing the event.
- Medications that help ease other PTSD symptoms may diminish libido or impact sexual performance. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about any sexual side effects for all your medications.
- It is a normal and expected part of PTSD to feel distant and cut off from your partner. You may feel like they cannot understand the traumatic event you experienced, and perhaps that they can no longer understand you. Feeling isolated and alienated from everyone you used to be close to is a difficult but expected symptom of PTSD. Therapy can help with these feelings, but it takes time.
- Trust and emotional safety are often stumbling blocks in relationships affected by PTSD. Therapy can be very effective in helping reestablish trust and the willingness to be vulnerable but again, this takes some time.
- PTSD can wreak havoc with sleep. Insomnia is common, and interrupted sleep due to nightmares is also common. Couples may find that sleeping together is difficult, especially if one or both partners need to maintain employment outside the home.
- Many people suffering from PTSD find that recreational drugs or alcohol dull the worst of the PTSD symptoms. Substance abuse often results from these efforts at self-medication. Substance abuse further complicates treatment and negatively impacts intimacy.
What can you do? Commit to your PTSD therapy and work hard to get better. There are a number of different techniques used to help people heal from trauma. Stick with therapy, and stay positive. A committed partner is one of the most healing and wonderful aspects of life, and as a trauma survivor, no one deserves this love and peace more than you.