Being in a relationship with someone who has PTSD can feel overwhelming at times. It may even make you feel like a bad boyfriend or girlfriend, but don't fret. These feelings are completely normal.
It takes time to learn the best ways to help your spouse when they have PTSD. It can also be tricky to understand how to cope with the stress you feel as a supportive partner.
Learning about PTSD is the first step toward creating a game plan for how to support your spouse.
Remember that you need support, too. That's why we're looking at helpful ways to cope when your partner has PTSD and what you can do to help them.
How does PTSD affect relationships?
When you think of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, you likely think of someone in the military. Many veterans indeed live with PTSD. One study found from 2002 to 2015, 500,000 U.S soldiers have screened positive for PTSD.
But the truth is, PTSD can be triggered by any traumatic event, such as a death in the family, an assault, or a difficult childhood.
Symptoms of PTSD include:
· Difficulty sleeping
· Frequent nightmares
· Anxiety / Social anxiety
· Traumatic memories
· Irrational fear of danger or death
· Low sex drive
· Emotional withdrawal, and more
Given the severity of these symptoms, it is no surprise that PTSD can severely affect relationships, romantic and otherwise.
How to cope when your partner has PTSD
Living with someone who has so much pain inside them can be difficult. At times you may feel like you are the only one who is trying. You may feel like you no longer know the person you married.
Here are some ways you can cope with PTSD.
1. Self-care as the supportive spouse
First and foremost, it's important to take care of yourself.
You may have a natural inclination to put your spouse first, and this is very loving. Still, when you are in a position to be a constant emotional supporter of someone else, you must put your own mental and physical health first.
· Practice self-care regularly. Eat well, get plenty of sleep, and exercise at least a couple of times a week.
· Make time for personal hobbies. Doing things you love will make you feel refreshed and upbuilt.
· Spend time with friends. Make plans with other people, go out, laugh, and get excited about social events.
· Find your support system. It's hard to be strong all the time, so be sure you have a trusted friend or family member that you can vent to when you're feeling overwhelmed or frustrated.
Their support will mean the world in times of distress.
The better you take care of yourself, the more emotional support you will offer your partner.
2. Be a listening ear
Communication is the key to a healthy marriage, especially when your partner is dealing with mental health issues or dealing with trauma.
Not only are couples who communicate more satisfied in their relationships, but they also interact more positively than those who keep their feelings to themselves.
Your partner may not always want to talk about what they've been through or what has triggered their PTSD, but it will be a comfort for them to know that you are there to listen if they feel like talking.
3. Educate yourself
The more you learn about PTSD and your partner's triggers, the easier it will be for you to comfort them and understand how best to speak to them.
4. Make social plans
An antisocial personality disorder is commonly found in those suffering from PTSD - and it's easy to see why. If something could trigger you into a panic attack at a moment's notice, you probably wouldn't feel great about going to a crowded restaurant or party, either.
That being said, it is important for your spouse to get out and socialize every once in a while.
Set up social events with close friends and family, perhaps at home, where your spouse will feel safe and comfortable. Being around people will help boost your partner's mood and self-confidence.
If your spouse says no, don't push them. Encourage them gently and be positive about how this could be a fun evening for them, but don't force them to do anything they aren't comfortable with.
5. Be patient
If your friend says yes to spending time with friends or promises to take you out for a date night, just know that they may change their mind last minute. It may be frustrating for your relationship to lack consistency this way, but this is all part of PTSD.
It can be easy to get caught up in your emotions and take their cancellations personally, but be patient with your spouse and remind yourself that their PTSD has nothing to do with you.
6. Express affection freely
People with anxiety disorders often feel like they are a burden to their partner, so it would be of much comfort to tell your spouse how much you love them and why.
Studies show that touching someone you love can mitigate physical and psychological distress.
Take advantage of physical affection, if your partner is comfortable being touched, and hug, kiss, and cuddle often.
7. Gently encourage professional intervention
Sometimes talking to a stranger about our problems is easier than talking to our closest loved one. This is why many people with PTSD benefit from therapy.
There are many types of therapy available for PTSD, such as processing therapy, inoculation training, or exposure therapy .
Seeing a doctor may also benefit your spouse, as their physician should be able to prescribe anti-anxiety medications that will make daily life much easier for your partner.
Just because your partner has extra stress to deal with doesn't mean your relationship is doomed. By getting educated about PTSD, you will learn the best way to support your partner while keeping yourself healthy and happy.
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