Is Your Relationship Causing You Trauma?

Posted by on Aug 13, 2017 in Trauma Treatment

Is Your Relationship Causing You Trauma?

We are all familiar with the term PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). This term is usually associated with military veterans, but it is also often used to describe individuals that has gone through horrific incidents in their lives. Some common symptoms includes anxiety, flashbacks, night sweats and uncontrollably or ruminating thoughts. This blog however is not to discuss PTSD at least, not that type of PTSD, but another. This type is associated with relationships. Its called Post Traumatic Relationship Disorder (PTRD). Although this term is not an official diagnosis, it is very real according to research.

What is relationship trauma?
Post traumatic relationship disorder can stem from any type of toxic, abusive and unhealthy relationship. Here’s an example, I’ve treated a client in the recent past who was married for nine years to someone that she thought was a wonderful and trust worthy person. Although there were red flags early in the relationship (which she ignored). She nonetheless thought that they were in a good place. She supported him in his career and played the “good wife” role, although he was unfaithful a couple of times in the relationship. He always maintained that the affairs meant nothing to him. She knew that she was in a toxic relationship, but didn’t have the courage or strength to leave. Her trust for him was lost and she would often go through his cell phone and social media accounts. One afternoon she came home and he was packed up and ready to leave. He verbalized to her that he had met someone new and wanted a divorce.

Two years later, this client continues to mourn the loss of her relationship. She ruminates about all the good times that she once had with this man. She refuses to start dating as she states “she is not ready to move on”. There are places that she cannot return too including certain restaurants, and other locations, as they hold such profound memories for her, of a much happier time. She suffers from anxiety and she gets very depressed from time to time, Although she was not in an abusive relationship per se, she was in an unhealthy and very toxic relationship. She is suffering from the symptoms of her past relationship.

Symptoms of post traumatic relationship trauma
According to research PTRD is usually associated with abusive relationships, and it exhibits some of the same or similar symptoms, as PSTD. Some common symptoms of PTRD may include anxiety, flashbacks, excessive crying, nightmares, weight gain or weight loss, avoidance of places to name a few. This can occur during certain moments when the individual remembers the stressor or a memory is triggered about the relationship. The individual may also experience nightmares and these can be in the form of vivid dreams.

The above client has verbalized many detailed nightmares that she has had over the past few years regarding her relationship. This is more than someone having a difficult time getting over a break up, She cries excessively and ruminates over this loss. She engages in self blame and has verbalized some of the things that she thinks that she did that was “wrong” in the relationship. Which brings me to another major symptom of PTRD which is self blaming. The individual may think that if he/she did something different, that the outcome would also be different. I hear this quite often from my clients, and it’s pretty hard convincing them other wise. One has no control over another’s behavior, one only has control over one’s self, emotions and behaviors.

Tips to heal from relationship trauma
So how can one heal after relationship trauma effectively? According to research, knowing that you are not alone can be helpful to start. Although I cannot give a set figure of those suffering from relationship trauma, I do know from experience that it does exist and its very painful. I love support groups and often refer clients to take advantage of any type of resource that can help them move forward. There are tons of support groups that can help with just about any type of emotional symptom that one may suffer with. There is unity in numbers and knowing that there are others like you out there can be comforting.

Finding your passion/hobby again can also be helpful, many individuals have given up on their passions/hobbies in order to stay in bad relationships. When the marriage or relationship is over, they often realize that they may have lost themselves in it as well. Learning about one’s self and becoming more self aware can also be helpful. Not ignoring the red flags in your relationship is also key to avoiding relationship trauma. Knowing when to let go is key in any relationship. If red flags are all over your relationship, it may be time to step away.

Other ways to heal/cope with relationship trauma is to learn to say “no”, and not feel guilty about it. You will also have to learn how to forgive yourself, and know that you are not to to be blamed for a failed relationship. You can also help heal your body and mind by exercising regularly and taking better care of yourself. Meditation and yoga are prescribed, as it helps to center your entire being. If your self esteem and self confidence is low, this is also a good time to work on having a healthier self esteem. This is the time to work on you and your well being. There is no definite set time to grieve over a lost relationship, but do know (I’m going to sound very clique here) that everything happens for a reason. Take care of yourself and know that you are in a better place now than, where you were in your bad relationship.