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What Are the Effects of PTSD on Relationships?

By Tara Barnett
Updated May 17, 2024
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Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) almost always puts stress on a relationship, but the exact effects of PTSD on relationships depend on many different variables. For example, PTSD can be caused by a number of different events and may also manifest in different ways. Qualities of the relationship and the understanding both parties possess concerning the difficulties of living with PTSD may also determine how this disorder affects relationships. PTSD can cause relationships to dissolve, but with significant effort and understanding, the effects of PTSD on relationships can be minimized and controlled.

One of the most important things to realize when evaluating the effects of PTSD on relationships is that the event that triggered this disorder can determine its effects in certain situations. PTSD resulting from rape, for example, may make sexual relationships very difficult. People who suffer from PTSD after returning from war may be violent toward their partners or scared for reasons they cannot explain. Properly diagnosing this disorder can help determine how to minimize the effects before they grow dangerous.

Some of the common effects of PTSD on relationships include emotional detachment, dependency, and anger. These can make life very difficult for both partners, leading to further frustration and anxiety. In family relationships, children of people with PTSD may not be able to understand why the parent is acting a certain way. Stepping back from the situation and ensuring that all parties are educated about the disorder can help alleviate some of these effects.

In some cases, PTSD can cause a person to cut off relationships entirely without warning. In these cases, the other people in the relationship may not even know what has caused the relationship to end. When PTSD causes a person to withdraw, there is no support group or people who will notice the person's serious need for help. This can be highly dangerous both for the sufferer and for any loved ones, although in some cases separation can provide the sufferer with the space he or she needs to find inner peace.

Although the effects of PTSD on relationships are almost always negative, some people find that working together to solve a serious health problem brings people closer in the end. Working through PTSD may be difficult, but doing so demonstrates great commitment to the relationship and can solidify an emotional bond. Understanding what PTSD is can help both partners reduce the amount of blame and anxiety in the relationship, which can help prevent the relationship from dissolving.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Reminiscence — On Jan 31, 2014

One of my co-workers had PTSD from military service, and his wife was pretty close to a saint. She knew how to calm him down if he'd get agitated about something. None of us understood how his PTSD worked, so we'd just let him take a long walk around the campus until he felt better. She could calm him down with just one phone call.

I think having a relationship with someone diagnosed with PTSD would be very tricky. I don't know if I could do it. They say a lot of people with PTSD are perfectly fine most of the day, then they'll hear or see something that triggers a panic attack. In my co-worker's case, it was any loud, unexpected noise or shouting. His wife made the relationship work, though.

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