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Examining the Impact of PTSD on Relationships

The current prevalence of adult post-traumatic stress disorder in the United States is about 5%. Research shows that women are more likely than men to develop it. At some point in life, up to 8% of women may experience PTSD. About 4% of men may experience it. Those numbers are based on lifetime risks and do not reflect the current rate. The good news is that with treatment, many of those people will overcome PTSD. For adults, it is important to understand what it is and its common effects on relationships. It is also helpful to know why treatment is important for people dealing with PTSD in relationships.

What Is PTSD?

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can develop in people who have witnessed or experienced something traumatic. For some people, it may be a single event like a car accident. Others may experience ongoing trauma from abuse, war, or something else. It often includes disturbing and intense thoughts even after the traumatic experience is over. People with this disorder may have nightmares, flashbacks, fear, and sadness. They usually avoid people or places associated with the trauma and are easily startled. Some develop other mood disorders and may experience suicidal thoughts.

How Can it Impact Interpersonal Relationships

Trauma and relationships can affect one another in several ways. These are some PTSD effects that may negatively impact relationships:

  • Poor communication
  • Withdrawing from social or family activities
  • Less interest in intimacy or sexual activity
  • Increasing dependency on a partner
  • Anger outbursts and poor emotional regulation
  • Difficulty solving problems
  • Being overwhelmed by minor conflicts
  • Pushing away and criticizing a partner
  • Abusive behavior
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Partners of people with PTSD may feel like they are becoming full-time caregivers as these problems worsen. All the effects of PTSD can cause instability in a relationship, and some partners cannot deal with the stress. It is challenging to maintain a romantic relationship or marriage with someone who has untreated PTSD. For relationships to survive, professional treatment is essential.

Therapeutic Approaches for Treating PTSD in Relationships

Research shows that most people who seek treatment for PTSD see improvements in their relationship issues. Between 5% and 10% may experience ongoing relationship issues. However, a comprehensive treatment approach can increase the chances of success. There are several different approaches for treating PTSD, and these are three standard methods:

  • Talk therapy
  • EMDR therapy
  • Medications

Therapists often use behavioral therapy techniques to help people identify the causes of their behaviors or triggers. People with PTSD learn ways to change harmful behaviors or manage triggers. Also, they can learn how to cope with various aspects of life. EMDR is a particular type of therapy that involves using light to change eye movements and guided instructions to reprocess memories. It is a method that has positive outcomes for helping people overcome past trauma or negative experiences. Professionals can also determine if medications may help alleviate some symptoms.

Signs & Symptoms

The PTSD effects on relationships discussed earlier are related to the signs that partners notice. These are some common examples:

  • Distancing
  • Mood swings
  • Manipulation
  • Controlling behavior
  • Verbal, physical or sexual abuse
  • Humiliation

PTSD intimacy behaviors can vary. Some people with PTSD may seem more aggressive during sex. However, others may reexperience trauma during sex.

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Coping With PTSD in a Relationship

PTSD and relationships can improve when partners commit to treatment and healing. People who struggle with this disorder learn personalized coping strategies during therapy. For their partners, coping requires learning and understanding this disorder. Partners may also need therapy to cope and they learn how to be empathetic, sensitive, and comforting. They learn to create boundaries, deal with a partner’s triggers, and more.

Finding Healing for Trauma and Relationships in Tennessee

Mind Body Wellness in Franklin can help couples dealing with PTSD learn how to cope and work toward healing. We use talk therapy and other clinical methods to meet individual needs. Since it affects the mind, body, and spirit, we use a holistic approach to treat each aspect comprehensively. The purpose of holistic treatment is to experience whole-body healing and successful recovery. We also treat co-occurring mental health issues, which is essential since many people with PTSD also have depression or anxiety. Additionally, we provide addiction treatment. To learn more, please contact us.