How Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Impacts Relationships

A Brief Overview of How PTSD Effects the Body

Researchers continue to explore how trauma is a strong indicator of negative health outcomes. In fact, the trauma response impacts all systems of the body. Most impacted are the central nervous system (the brain) and the cardiovascular system. Brain imaging reveals a decrease in the size of the amygdala. This is the part of the brain responsible for the stress response. An overactive stress response leads to increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure. Survival instincts like hyper-vigilance are employed erroneously.

Changes in the Brain Increase Stress and Agitation

You can see how these effects lay the foundation for challenges with interpersonal functioning. Increased stress and agitation have a significant impact on close relationships. Frequent displays of anger and irritability lead to hurt feelings for spouses and other family members. Emotional numbing, a common symptom of PTSD, can impede intimacy and affection. It can be hard for sufferers to express loving feelings toward others.

Embracing a healthy support system is paramount when treating mental health disorders. With PTSD, however, this can be a challenge. In fact, frequent discordance within close relationships can exacerbate symptoms.

Research reveals that PTSD can have negative effects on marital adjustment, general family functioning, and the mental health of partners.

If Your Loved One is Struggling

If you are a partner, family member, or caregiver of someone struggling with PTSD, you may be familiar with these challenges. Prioritizing self-care and having an outlet for associated distress is prudent. Most importantly, separate the symptoms from the person you know and love. Remind them of a time when they showed you who they really are.

At the same time, do not make excuses or tolerate poor treatment. It’s essential that your loved one be held accountable for their treatment. This approach is beneficial long-term, as it emphasizes they are a survivor rather than a victim. Support and expectations can be balanced. Knowing that treatment is not only for them but for loved ones, too, serves as a valuable source of motivation. Let them take pride in each step they take to get better.

With treatment, symptoms are managed and the impact of post-traumatic stress disorder can be significantly reduced.

Still, lapses and setbacks are common, and some people will respond to treatment better than others. With chronic mental health issues, it’s important to look at treatment as an ongoing process. Like a river, it ebbs and flows.

If your loved one struggles with PTSD, addiction, or any mental health problems, you can be an important part of their process in getting better. Don’t be afraid to talk to your loved one about their mental health issues. If issues are not addressed, they cannot be resolved. Family counseling can help keep communication open and foster healthy relationships.

© Kelsey Galer 2020

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