When someone experiences trauma, they may develop PTSD which can cause relationship problems. This can cause people to withdraw from their loved ones suffering from PTSD, not fully understanding why changes in the relationships are happening. Learning why these changes occur and what you and your loved one can do may be able to help your relationship stay strong and healthy.
What Is PTSD
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a psychological disorder that someone can develop after experiencing a traumatic event. It causes people to become guarded, occupied with their own thoughts, and withdrawn from the world around them. This can cause a strain on relationships, but it doesn’t have to.
How PTSD Works
Traumatic events like abuse, war, or watching someone die can cause people to develop PTSD, but scientists believe that it is more than the event that causes this disorder. In a study, they found that when someone already has a dysregulated hippocampus, they are more likely to develop PTSD from a traumatic event.
The hippocampus is a part of the limbic system. It plays an essential role in forming new memories from past experiences. People with PTSD have a smaller hippocampus, which makes it overactive potentially explaining the flashbacks and constant anxiety.
The amygdala is another part of the limbic system which controls your fear response. It is this little alarm in your head that goes off when you sense a threat and has your body act accordingly. If a tiger were chasing you, your amygdala would freak out and put your body into overdrive so you could try and escape to safety.
The amygdala is also what puts emotions to your memories, including the feeling of fear. People with PTSD experience heightened activity in the amygdala, which makes their fear response more severe causing constant stress on the person afflicted.
The overactivity in the limbic system trickles into the medial prefrontal cortex, which is what is in charge of the decision-making process. It has also been suggested that it plays a crucial role in retrieving long-term memories. When someone has PTSD, they aren’t just plagued by terrorizing memories. They are suffering from their brain making changes, which can causes problems in relationships.
Problems In Relationships PTSD May Cause
Feeling Numb And Distant
Immediately after someone experiences a traumatic event, they may begin to withdraw and become distant to those who love them. They often harbor feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment which can cause them to isolate themselves. Many people struggling with PTSD also have problems with trust, closeness, problem-solving, and communication which can make them feel the need to ride this disorder out alone. But isolating yourself when struggling with something as serious as PTSD will most likely make the problems worse.
Not Participating In Social Activities
People who experience PTSD might go out of their way to avoid triggers. This could be going out and having fun with friends to being intimate with their partner. This can cause their partner to become confused, thinking that they are the problem. If this is you, you are not the problem.
Someone with PTSD is likely always on guard because their brain is telling them to be. Searching for triggers everywhere to make sure that they feel safe and compelling them to avoid these situations. With their amygdala being overactive, these triggers can be everywhere, causing fear at every corner.
Fear can often be represented as irritability or anger, which many people with PTSD struggle with. It can put them in a constant sour mood, making being around them less pleasant. If they are socially isolating themselves, this can also cause them to become cold and callous in order to protect themselves.
Someone with PTSD may become overbearing in the desire to protect the ones that they love. This fear that they harbor can turn outward, making them seem irrational in their decisions when in their mind they are making the right call. This can cause a partner to feel powerless to their control.
Verbal and physical violence are common in people who suffer from PTSD. And this is one thing that can truly destroy a relationship. You should in no way put yourself or anyone you love in danger in order to aid their healing process, but keeping in mind that they aren’t well can help motivate you to get them the help that they need.
People with PTSD have also shown to have issues controlling their impulses. This can make a partner feel like that any wrong move they make will cause an eruption of anger either physically or emotionally. This can also be another reason they push people away, knowing they could explode at any moment.
Difficulty Being A Team Player
When you love someone and want to spend your life with them, making crucial decisions together is a bonding experience and something that needs to be done to make the relationship strong and healthy. However, because of the dysregulation in the prefrontal cortex, people with PTSD often have a difficult time making decisions.
Having to make every decision on your own can become exhausting over time, and their inability to set their mind on anything can be frustrating for them as well. But you don’t have to live like this forever; you can make changes in your lives that help the both of you live a happy life together.
How Can Someone With PTSD Have Healthy Relationships?
PTSD can change the way that the person afflicted treats their loved ones, which can make their loved ones treat them differently. This turns around and makes the person with PTSD feel attacked or vulnerable creating a vicious cycle, but there are things that people with PTSD can do to manage healthy relationships.
- Build a personal support network that can help you cope with PTSD while working on relationships
- Build skills in problem-solving and connecting with others
- Learn how to play, be creative, relax, and enjoy others again with these skills
- Share feelings honestly and openly
- Rebuild strength in compassion and understanding
How To Fix Relationship Problems With PTSD
Have the problems already started? There are ways that you and your loved one can help make your relationship better together.
- Couples Therapy
- One-on-One therapy
- Group Therapy
- Anger and Stress Management
- Family Therapy
- Assertiveness Training
Considering the brain changes involved in PTSD can get pretty severe the longer it goes untreated, doctors often suggest taking medication along with therapy. Often time people with PTSD are prescribed an anti-anxiety medication or mood stabilizers to help with their condition. Studies have shown that taking CBD hemp oil may also be a valid treatment option.
How CBD Oil May Be Able To Help
Cannabidiol has shown in studies that it may be able to help with PTSD on several different levels. It has access to different parts of your brain because of its interaction with the endocannabinoid system. By elevating chemicals, opening pathways, and stimulating or strengthening receptors, CBD oil may be able to help make this journey through PTSD easier for both you and your partner.
CBD And The Hippocampus
So we know that one part of the brain that is affected by PTSD and may even cause vulnerability to the disorder is the hippocampus. Cannabidiol may be able to help repair the hippocampal damage through neurogenesis, which may be able to prevent the development of PTSD or work as a treatment.
CBD And The Amygdala
An overactive amygdala is a reason that people with PTSD are always plagued with fear and CBD oil may be able to help. While researching how CBD helps with anxiety, scientists discovered that it helps to reduce the overactivity of the amygdala. This may be able to help the person suffering from PTSD experience fear less often and less severe.
CBD And The Medial Prefrontal Cortex
In a study where they gave rodent models CBD, they found that it was able to help reduce their perceived fear through its interaction with the medial prefrontal cortex. In this study, they also note how CBD works in an upside-down U shape when it comes to dosing. When the rodent models were given double the amount of CBD, it actually worsened their contextual fear.
CBD For Depression
Many people who have PTSD may also develop depression. This could be because of life changes or social isolation, but studies suggest that depression may come from the way that stress and anxiety harm the brain through inflammation.
Studies have shown that CBD oil can help with inflammation, which may include inflammation of the brain contributing to stall the degrading process. Researchers also believe that it can act as a fast-acting antidepressant, showing in rodent models to work in as little as thirty minutes.
Time To Get Serious
If you or your loved one have PTSD and it is making your relationship challenging to maintain, talk to a doctor. After reading this article, you have a good idea of what is going on in their brain, and this isn’t something that “getting over it” can fix. A therapist can help you and your loved one work through these problems together, helping you to become stronger on the other side. And don’t forget to mention adding CBD oil into the mix, it may be the stepping stone you both need to a healthier tomorrow.
Do you have any tips you would like someone to know when it comes to loving someone with PTSD? We would love to hear about it in the comment section!