5 Ways People With PTSD Love Differently Than Everyone Else

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5 ways people with PTSD love differently and ways to cope

Trauma changes you.

Experiences with trauma change people in ways that can make relationships more difficult.

Fortunately, however, if you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or are falling in love with someone who shows symptoms of this devastating mental health issue, there are ways to cope that make living with these issues easier for everyone.

What is PTSD?

As defined and explained by the Mayo Clinic, "Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

"Most people who go through traumatic events may have temporary difficulty adjusting and coping, but with time and good self-care, they usually get better. If the symptoms get worse, last for months or even years, and interfere with your day-to-day functioning, you may have PTSD."

RELATED: 8 Common Symptoms Of PTSD That Can Affect Anyone

Assuming the trauma that caused the PTSD is interpersonal, meaning that someone did something to cause the traumatic experience, as opposed to a natural catastrophe like an earthquake or a flood, the more you know about the way this condition typically affects people, the easier it will be for you to understand yourself or help someone you love with PTSD.

Here are 5 things you should know about the ways men and women living with PTSD symptoms love differently in relationships.

1. Trusting others is difficult.

When someone has done something to betray your basic trust in humanity, it becomes harder to trust others. You are quicker to anger, and quicker to see the person you are with as bad or evil when disappointed.

2. They fear being close to others.

Because others have become the things to be feared, you are uncomfortable with crowds and more likely to want to be alone.

RELATED: 5 Heartbreaking Signs Your Spouse Is Silently Suffering From PTSD

3. They often feel defensive.

Some men and women were burned so badly by the opposite sex that the burn never leaves them. They are always defensive and on guard.

But, there is a way to cope with this. The first thing to do with any problem is to recognize the problem. You might be telling yourself you're better off alone because then you can’t be hurt. True, but your life loses a lot more than you gain that way.

Humans are social animals. We are happiest in the company of others we love. You may need a time of healing, but sooner or later you will have to try reaching out again.

4. They're easily disappointed.

Once you've decided to take the risk of loving, the biggest problems you will face might be in continuing the relationship. There are going to be disappointments. The other person will inevitably let you down in at least minor ways.

Healthy people who have never been seriously traumatized have reasonable expectations and find it easy to forgive when most of those expectations are not met (of course, there are some relationship deal-breakers like abuse, drug addiction, or unfaithfulness).

People who have been traumatized react to minor disappointments as if they were major traumas.

For example, I had a client whose mother would repeatedly yell at him and beat him when he was young. This felt so out-of-control and scary to him that he thought he might be severely hurt or even killed. He had PTSD from it.

Once he grew up, he was emotionally OK getting into relationships with women, because they would not trigger him early on. But once the relationship got more serious and they were spending a lot more time together, his partner would raise her voice at some point and that was it.

He couldn’t recover, he couldn’t forgive. He would say he accepted an apology if it was offered, but he never felt the same security and comfort with her again. By the time he was 30, he had a dozen relationships that all lasted from several months to a year and ended badly.

5. They tend to push people away.

Some people with PTSD push others away after being triggered. Some push others away before the triggering even happens, in anticipation. Others just find that the irritability and anger that runs through their lives poisons every relationship.

Not everyone affected by trauma has the full diagnostic picture of PTSD.

PTSD involves nightmares, flashbacks, repeated thoughts of the trauma. The memory haunts the sufferer.

Once the full PTSD syndrome has been there for more than six months, there is a good chance it will stay there forever without professional help. Thus, seeing a therapist trained in techniques for treating PTSD might be a necessity.

The good news is that PTSD is treatable, and even better, it’s curable.

I suggest you start out with safer topics, focusing on the present. When you feel safe and comfortable and have built up enough trust in the therapist, however long that takes, then process the trauma.

Most trauma does not result in PTSD. It just might make you over-react to things that remind you of the trauma.

For example, a woman beaten by her drunk father might have a very strong reaction to a man drinking even a single glass of wine with dinner. That could seriously limit your dating pool. It might help you to identify where the feelings came from and assign them to that place.

In other words, take deep breaths and say to yourself, "I am not in danger because this guy is having a glass of wine; those feelings are from back then. Now, I’m safe." That can give you greater flexibility and freedom.

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Bruce Karp, PhD, is a psychologist who works with veteran's who have PTSD, as well as with couples in marriage and family therapy. He focuses on quick skill-building with some clients, and in-depth trauma processing with others, finding that the most successful cases frequently involve an aspect of present-focused skill-building at first, followed by past-focused trauma-processing later.