If You Are Dating Someone With PTSD, Read This
We hear so much about PTSD, but how many of you know what it is, and the harrowing ordeal that someone affected by it experiences on a regular basis? In addition, have you ever met someone with PTSD, or are you dating someone with PTSD currently?
Whatever your situation, understanding this troublesome and upsetting condition is vital. It can be very difficult for someone to form a bond with a PTSD sufferer because of the overwhelming desire to make everything better can become the only thing you focus on. The problem is, you cannot click your fingers and heal someone with PTSD, you can only support them.
What is PTSD?
PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and it is a common mental health condition. PTSD can sometimes occur after an event which was traumatising to that person in some way, either that they went through it themselves, or they saw it happening before their own eyes. For instance, many veterans of war suffer from PTSD in the years after they serve in the military. It can also be something witnessed in childhood, sexual abuse, assault, or another event which has occurred in that person’s life which led them to feel shocked and traumatised. The condition can occur straightaway after the event, or it can take years to show itself.
The good news is that PTSD can be managed and can eventually be overcome, but the person in question needs to recognise that they have a problem and seek help. When left unchecked, PTSD can seriously affect quality of life and can cause night terrors, an inability to leave the house, serious flashbacks, and problems with relationships and intimacy.
A person with PTSD may experience the following:
- Flashbacks of the event
- Being distressed when something reminds them of the event
- Avoidance tactics
- Negative thoughts
- Feeling hopeless and numb
- Memory blackouts pertaining to the event, e.g not remembering certain parts of it
- Problems with relationships and detachment
- Not being interested in the things they used to enjoy and love
- Reacting strongly to small events
- Being ‘jumpy’
- Paranoia, e.g. worrying something will happen again, always on the lookout for upset or danger
- Sleep issues
- Drinking, smoking, using drugs in order to cope
- Irritability and irrational outbursts usually directed at those they love or are close to
- Feeling ashamed or guilty for no reason
- Issues with focus and concentration
Dating someone with PTSD can be a challenge, and the biggest part is getting them to open up and talk to you. It is heartbreaking to watch someone you care about in so much pain, but it’s important to realise that you cannot heal them, you cannot take it all away, and sometimes you have to put yourself first too. These are the hardest parts about dating someone with PTSD.
In addition, these are things you must bear in mind or do.
Understand PTSD in as Much Detail as You Can
Realise He or She Doesn’t Mean to Hurt You
A common symptom of PTSD is having bouts of rage or anger which are uncontrollable. He or she cannot control it, it comes out of nowhere, and it is not aimed at you. Realising that it is not meant to hurt you, not meant to cause you pain, is a vital step in being able to date someone with PTSD. Knowing how to cope with these outbursts is also important.
Understand That They May Feel They Don’t Deserve Love
PTSD takes away a person’s confidence, and as a result, it strips away at how they feel about themselves. It’s likely that your partner feels they are not worthy of love, and they have problems building trust because they’re always on the lookout for a situation which is considered dangerous. It’s a good idea to look at ways to help reassure him or her that you love them, that you are there for them genuinely. Relationship counselling could be a good option here.
Explore Treatment Options Together
It 100% has to be your partner’s decision to seek help and get treatment for PTSD because, without that willingness to work with health professionals, it simply won’t work. Exploring treatment options together and supporting your partner throughout their treatment will help support and build your bond. One thing to remember, however, is never to dictate to them what they should or shouldn’t do, this has to be their journey.
Realise That You Matter Too
When dating someone with PTSD, it can become very easy to focus all your love and attention on your partner, because you can see they are in pain and they need you. The thing is, you cannot be there for them in the best possible way if you are not looking after your own basic needs. You need space away from the relationships to reconnect with friends and have light, positive experiences. If you don’t do this, you will risk becoming swallowed up by the negativity that your partner may often emit. Giving yourself a break occasionally, and not feeling guilty about it, will allow you to be stronger for your partner.
When dating someone with PTSD it is so important to realise that the condition is a strong one and a very serious one. As with any mental health condition, helping the person realise that they need help is vital, but you cannot and must not push them into something they’re not ready for. This will only backfire and make them move away from you emotionally. A person with PTSD is scared, and you need to be as gentle and understanding as you can be. What you shouldn’t do, however, is to lose yourself in the midst of it all and forget that you matter too.