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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health diagnosis that is the result of a life threatening event or sexual trauma. It can have a huge impact on the quality of someone's life and on the quality of their relationships. People with PTSD often experience daily triggers and reminders of the traumatic life threatening even they went through, and this can cause intense emotions and reactions. In this article, we will explore PTSD triggers in relationships, how they affect both partners in a relationship, as well as some strategies for dealing with PTSD triggers in a relationship.
What are PTSD triggers?
PTSD triggers are sights, sounds, smells, or situations that bring back memories of a traumatic event someone went through. These trauma reminders often cause a big emotional response in someone with PTSD because they bring back the severe emotions someone was experiencing at the time of the traumatic event. Triggers can be unpredictable and vary from person to person. They can be seem like normal everyday experiences to someone without PTSD--such as a car backfiring, which can remind someone of gunfire. However, the sound, smell, or experience reminds the individual of the traumatic experience they went through.
How do PTSD triggers affect a relationship?
PTSD triggers can have a big impact on relationships, especially in undiagnosed PTSD. The PTSD triggers can cause intense emotional reactions such as fear, anxiety, and anger, which can lead to confusion, conflict, and misunderstanding between partners. It can be hard not to take someone's reaction to PTSD triggers personally. For example, if a partner with PTSD become triggered during a movie and walks into the other room, it can be easy for the family members to think that the person isn't interested in spending time with them. Or if a partner with PTSD gets triggered during an argument, they may react with anger and their partner may feel like they were overreacting. hen partners without PTSD don't understand the triggers of someone with PTSD, they can take the reactions to PTSD triggers very personally and this often leads to more conflict. Overtime, this can damage the relationship.
Communication strategies for dealing with PTSD triggers
Effective communication is needed for every healthy relationship, but it is especially needed when one partner is dealing with PTSD triggers in a relationship. The partner with PTSD can help improve the relationship by learning to communicate clearly when they are experiencing a PTSD trigger in the relationship and by sharing their partner can support them when PTSD triggers happen. The partner without PTSD can help improve the relationship by starting to learn and recognize common PTSD triggers for their partner. They can also learn more about how PTSD impacts someone and their partner';s experiences of PTSD. Finally, they can work to approach conversations and triggering moments in a supportive and nonjudgemental way.
It can also be helpful for couples to develop a coping skill plan together that can be used when PTSD triggers happen. This plan ay include some strategies for how to avoid some triggers while till enjoying family time--such as avoiding movies and TV shows where there is sexual assaults, or wearing noise cancelling headphone when the kids want to fire off fireworks in the backyard. The plan may also include some relaxation and self-soothing exercises for when triggers do happen unexpectedly. This may involve breathing exercises, guided imagery, or even just going for a walk to feel ore centered.
Seeking professional help for PTSD and relationship issues
If you or your partner are experiencing PTSD triggers in your relationship, it's important to seek professional help to manage the PTSD symptoms. This could be in the form of individual therapy from a qualified mental health professional, and it could also be from a trauma-informed marriage counselor who can help you work through the relationship PTSD triggers together. Both individual and marriage counselors can help teach you effective coping and communication skills for when PTSD triggers happen.
While PTSD triggers have a serious impact on relationship, there are ways to cope and manage them! Learning to understand PTSD and PTSD triggers, and learning to communicate effectively around PTSD triggers in a relationship, will go a long ay to improving the relationship. Ultimately, the more understanding and communication there is, the more couples can create a supportive environment around the PTSD triggers. Seeking professional help, from individual or couples counseling, can help you manage PTSD triggers and improve your relationship. It takes some patience, but couples are able to work together to build healthy and string relationship even when one or both partners are living with PTSD.
Looking for marriage counseling to help you navigate PTSD triggers in a relationship?
Elizabeth Polinsky Counseling provides online Emotionally Focused Couples Counseling, as well as weekend-long Marriage Intensives, throughout the states of Virginia, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Nevada. Click the button below to schedule a complimentary consult.
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