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Complex PTSD Triggers in Relationships

Jul 20, 2023

A history of abuse during childhood is one factor in women developing Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD). You may not be aware of how C-PTSD differs from PTSD and how C-PTSD affects relationships and the impact it is having on your family, work, and social life. In this blog post, we’ll look at C-PTSD’s impact on your interpersonal relationships and how to find help.

Complex PTSD Triggers in Relationships

Because of the disorder’s complexity and pervasiveness, Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) can majorly impact relationships with others. Due to prior trauma and betrayal, individuals suffering from C-PTSD may have difficulty trusting others. Individuals with intense and unstable emotions may find it difficult to establish stable and healthy relationships because their emotional reactions are unexpected or disproportionate to the circumstances. Social isolation can emerge from avoidance behavior, which can strain relationships and limit possibilities for interaction. Other interpersonal concerns include difficulties with boundaries, hypervigilance and distrust, co-dependence or re-enactment behaviors, and communication difficulties. Women suffering from C-PTSD can find help at Hannah’s House, where programs can be customized to simultaneously treat trauma and a substance use disorder.

What Is C-PTSD?

C-PTSD is frequently the result of prolonged and repeated exposure to traumatic experiences, particularly in interpersonal relationships, such as chronic childhood abuse, domestic violence, or prolonged captivity. C-PTSD diagnosis criteria contain all PTSD criteria as well as the following additional symptoms:

  • Emotional dysregulation that’s characterized by difficulties managing or regulating emotions, powerful and unstable emotions, emotional outbursts, and a sensation of emotional numbness or emptiness
  • Disturbances in self-identity with a distorted self-image, feelings of shame or guilt, a persistent sense of worthlessness, and trouble developing a cohesive sense of self
  • Relationship issues: C-PTSD has been linked to difficulty creating and maintaining healthy relationships, including issues with trust, intimacy, and keeping boundaries.
  • Hopelessness: People suffering from C-PTSD may experience a loss of meaning, existential problems, and a sense of pessimism.

How Can C-PTSD Affect Relationships?

Complex PTSD triggers in relationships are important to recognize. C-PTSD can significantly impact a woman’s interpersonal relationships due to the complex and pervasive nature of the disorder. Here are some ways in which C-PTSD can affect interpersonal relationships.

  • Avoidance and isolation: C-PTSD in women can cause them to avoid people, places, or events that elicit painful memories or emotional anguish. This avoidance tendency can lead to social isolation, strained relationships, and fewer possibilities for interaction.
  • Co-dependent or re-enactment patterns: Some women with C-PTSD may develop codependency behaviors or repeat unhealthy relationship dynamics that replicate their traumatic experiences. This can prolong problematic relationship habits and complicate establishing healthy and balanced partnerships.
  • Communication issues: C-PTSD can make it challenging to communicate effectively in relationships. Women may be unable to articulate their demands and feelings clearly or struggle to regulate their emotions during arguments or disagreements.
  • Difficulty with boundaries: Women suffering from C-PTSD may struggle to create and maintain healthy boundaries in relationships. They may struggle to articulate their wants and aspirations, as well as recognize and respect the boundaries of others.
  • Emotional dysregulation: C-PTSD often involves emotional dysregulation, which results in powerful and unstable emotions. Women may find it difficult to establish stable and healthy relationships as a result of their emotional reactions being unexpected or inappropriate in the situation.
  • Hypervigilance and mistrust: C-PTSD might increase a woman’s awareness and frequent scanning for prospective dangers. This can lead to increased suspicion, paranoia, or a persistent sense of danger in relationships, making it difficult to create trust and a sense of safety.
  • Trust and intimacy issues: Women suffering from C-PTSD may have difficulty trusting others due to prior trauma and betrayal. They may struggle to build deep, intimate connections, fearing vulnerability and potentially recurring traumatic experiences.

How Is C-PTSD Treated?

Now that you know more about Complex PTSD triggers in relationships let’s talk about what treatment looks like. C-PTSD treatment often consists of a variety of therapy treatments that address the condition’s varied symptoms and challenges. Some popular C-PTSD therapy techniques include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and more. CBT assists people in processing traumatic events, challenging incorrect beliefs, and developing appropriate coping methods. Individuals with C-PTSD who experience emotional dysregulation and self-destructive behaviors may benefit from DBT as it emphasizes the improvement of emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness abilities. By processing traumatic memories and related beliefs, EMDR can be helpful in treating C-PTSD, too. It involves bilateral stimulation to aid in the reprocessing of traumatic events and the promotion of recovery.

Other methods for treating C-PTSD include medications to treat particular C-PTSD symptoms such as sadness, anxiety, or sleep difficulties. Antidepressants, anxiety medicines, and mood stabilizers are frequently prescribed. Developing self-care skills, such as stress reduction techniques, healthy living habits, and relaxation exercises, can also aid in managing C-PTSD symptoms and overall wellness. Group therapy, support groups, and peer support programs can encourage a sense of community and the chance to share experiences with others who have gone through similar difficulties. For example, yoga, mindfulness, and creative arts therapy can effectively control symptoms and enable healing.

Where Can I Find Help for C-PTSD?

If you or someone you know is suffering from C-PTSD, it is essential to get treatment from a trauma-focused mental health expert. Dual diagnosis treatment is advised if the trauma coexists with a drug use problem. Hannah’s House offers women with a history of drug abuse or addiction and co-occurring mental health issues a medically supervised detox, an accurate diagnosis, a comprehensive treatment plan, and the essential support to aid recovery and symptom management. As healing from C-PTSD is a long-term process, aftercare is essential for a woman to continue to receive support in the form of individual and group therapy as well as other forms of continuing care.

Hannah’s House is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For more information about the stages of alcoholism in women or to learn about our programs, call us today: 866-952-5532.

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