Ways people with PTSD love differently

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Ways people with PTSD love differently
Family, Heartbreak

Trauma changes people, and makes relationships more difficult, but there are ways to cope

First, let’s assume the trauma that caused the PTSD is interpersonal.  Someone did something to you, as opposed to a natural catastrophe like an earthquake or flood.  Those results might be a little different.

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

The first thing to do with any problem is recognize the problem.  You might be telling yourself you are better off alone, better off not trusting again 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.

Once you have 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 major 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 who was severely verbally abused.  His mother yelled at him and called him stupid and various other names every day of his young life.  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 that he felt before.

I have also dealt with many women who were the same way.  They were burned so badly that the burn never left them in dealing with the opposite sex.  They were always defensive and on guard.

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.  Even more, it’s curable. Start out with safer topics, what’s bothering you right now, 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, however.  It makes the person over-react to anything that reminds him or her of the trauma.  For example, if a woman was beaten by her drunk father she might have a very strong reaction to any man drinking even an occasional single glass of wine with dinner.  That could seriously limit the dating pool.  For traumas not causing full-blown PTSD, it might help to identify where they came from and assign them to that place.  In other words, “I am not in danger just because this guy is having a glass of wine, those feelings are from back then.”  Knowing yourself can lead to greater flexibility and freedom.