Whether it’s a roommate or a loved one, the reality is that many people are living with people who have mental health disorders. Recent research is highlighting that PTSD is increasingly more common. So, if you’re dating someone with PTSD, how can you help? This post discusses how to be in a relationship with someone who has PTSD, including tips on how you can support them or encourage them to get help.
PTSD: A Growing Concern
For many people, the term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is exclusively reserved for soldiers or cops. However, PTSD is a common diagnosis that can occur in just about anyone’s life. According to the American Psychiatric Association, PTSD affects approximately 3.5% of US adults every year.
Individuals with PTSD have intense thoughts and feelings related to an experience that caused them trauma. They may relive the event through flashbacks or nightmares.
These thoughts and feelings often cause intense sadness, fear, anger, depression or feelings of detachment from others. People with PTSD will often avoid situations or people that remind them of their traumatic event.
PTSD develops in approximately one in three people who experience trauma.
From this definition, it’s clear that this condition can impact many more people than just police officers and soldiers. Some common causes of PTSD include a physical or sexual assault, serious accidents, abuse, torture, war and conflict, traumatic events (such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks or losing a baby during childbirth) and more.
As the condition is quite common, there’s a probability that you’ll end up loving someone with PTSD. If this happens, you must understand how to help them cope with their condition so they feel healthy and safe.
Dating Someone with PTSD: Don’t Jump to Conclusions
So, you suspect your partner has PTSD, but you don’t how to proceed with helping someone with PTSD. First, you mustn’t diagnose your partner. Only a medical professional can diagnose an individual. You can broach the subject and ask if your loved one has a condition or is seeing a therapist.
If they’re not currently in treatment, consider if they’re displaying PTSD symptoms. Symptoms vary significantly for PTSD, but some of the common signs include:
- Flashbacks or nightmares
- Avoidance of certain situations or people
- Emotional numbing
- Hyperarousal (irritability, outbursts)
If you recognize these symptoms in your partner, ask yourself if you’re aware of a traumatic experience that may have occurred in their life within the last couple of months. If no events come to mind, you can try to have an open and non-judgmental conversation with them.
It’s important you don’t keep all your thoughts and concerns in, as they can come out in an inappropriate or insensitive way. When you’re feeling calm and your partner is in a good mood, try to voice your concerns with them. Even if your partner disagrees with your concerns, you bringing the topic up can spark some internal analysis on their end.
Ultimately, you want to encourage your partner to seek professional treatment and receive a professional diagnosis.
What Support Does Someone with PTSD Need?
If your partner receives a PTSD diagnosis, you can learn tips for how to love someone with PTSD. This condition isn’t a life sentence, and many individuals can overcome PTSD. However, it takes time, effort and support from loved ones.
Your first step was encouraging them to seek treatment. Consider that a win! Next, take some initiative in understanding how you can support your loved one. Some crucial steps will be:
- Educate yourself on PTSD: By understanding the condition, you’ll have more empathy and understanding of what your partner is going through.
- Don’t pressure them into talking: A lot of PTSD is reliving a traumatic event. You don’t want to re-traumatize them by pressuring them to talk all the time. Allow your partner to open up when they want to.
- Do normal activities with your partner: Another side effect of PTSD is wanting to shut off from the world and feeling depressed. Try to find “normal” activities for you and your partner to do. Make sure these activities are entirely unrelated to their traumatic experience. Participating in a regular routine will help them feel in control of their environment once more.
- Manage your own stress: If you can be calm and relaxed, it will significantly help your partner stay calm.
- Be patient: Recovery from PTSD can take time, and you should expect setbacks. Your loved one has been through a lot, and they’re doing their best to get better. Try to be patient and understand they won’t get better overnight.
- Encourage continued treatment: Your partner has the best chance for recovery if they seek professional help for their condition. Try to encourage and normalize them seeking treatment without being overbearing or checking that they’re attending sessions.
- Understand their triggers: Anytime your partner experiences something similar to their previous trauma, they can be triggered. If you know what triggers them, you can do your best to avoid those situations or scenarios. For example, if you know their trauma is tied to hospitals, you can avoid driving by hospitals. Small efforts like this can make a significant impact.
- Expect emotional swings: Individuals with PTSD can be prone to significant emotional swings, such as outbursts or periods of depression. Know that this will happen and be prepared to handle them as they occur.
Take Care of Yourself Too
Ultimately, dating someone with PTSD can be challenging. It can take a toll on both you and your relationship. You won’t be able to help your loved one if you’re deteriorating in the relationship. You need to acknowledge that their behavior may create stresses on you. Create limits for yourself and understand when you need to walk away. Not everyone will know how to deal with someone with PTSD. If you’re experiencing challenges in your own life, you may not have the emotional capacity to support another person and their needs. Sometimes, you may need to separate for your own benefit. Know it’s okay to step away and you’re not a bad person for taking care of yourself.
PTSD Treatment with FHE Health
There’s no reason you or your loved one has to continue living with PTSD symptoms. With the right treatment, you can get the help you need to confront your trauma and learn how to cope with triggers. Contact us today by calling us at (833) 596-3502. Our compassionate team of counselors is standing by to take your call 24/7.