Healing from Relationship PTSD: Overcoming the Past Trauma and Rebuilding Trust
Updated: Jul 27
If you were in an abusive relationship, you may have troubled memories of past trauma. Don't worry! Healing from past relationship trauma is possible. I have helped hundreds of people like you during my 12 years of experience as a psychotherapist.
The Healing Journey of Anna
Anna is one of my clients who came to see me with emotional trauma a few years ago.
Anna, a middle-aged woman, had been in an abusive relationship for several years. The relationship had left her with deep emotional scars that affected all aspects of her life.
Anna had been married for five years and loved her husband dearly. When he was sober, he was a kind and gentle person who loved her unconditionally. But when he was drinking, it was a nightmare. He became aggressive, shouted at her, and called her names. He humiliated and beat her.
She knew that his alcohol addiction was the root cause of their problems, but she hoped he would someday stop drinking.
The years passed, and she could not stand the abuse anymore. So, one day, Anna found the courage to end that traumatic relationship. She packed her bags and left without a word. She divorced her husband soon. She decided to seek help when her thoughts and feelings became unbearable.
When Anna came to see me, she looked very upset and agitated. She complained that she often felt overwhelmed by fear and anxiety. Her mind was constantly replaying the traumatic events. She felt trapped by her emotions, and her suffering was intolerable.
Anna isolated herself from friends and family. She struggled to find joy in the things that she used to love.
Anna said she had persistent thoughts and memories. They made it difficult for her to function. She had flashbacks and nightmares. She found herself feeling panicked and afraid even in safe situations.
Anna complained that she did not sleep well. She had trouble falling and staying asleep, and she woke up frequently with nightmares. A loud sound or noise could also startle her. She also struggled with concentration and focus at work.
I suggested a new type of psychotherapy. It is called Brain-Working Recursive Therapy (BWRT). I use it with PTSD clients, and it works well.
Anna was skeptical at first, but she decided to give it a try. After just four sessions, she began to feel an incredible sense of relief. She no longer felt overwhelmed by the traumatic memories of her past, and she was able to think about the abusive events without feeling any emotional distress.
Anna's journey was not an easy one, but she recovered and moved on with her life.
What is relationship PTSD?
People experiencing abuse like Anna usually get relationship PTSD, also called post-traumatic relationship syndrome (PTRS). Such trauma can occur in toxic or abusive relationships. Abuse, infidelity, or betrayal are the main causes of trauma. They can do a lot of harm to a person.
Such traumatic experiences often affect a person's sense of identity, self-esteem, and ability to trust others.
Besides, people who have been traumatized may also have trouble with intimacy. So, they may have a hard time forming healthy relationships.
Apart from that, abusive relationships affect mental health. A traumatized person may develop anxiety disorders, depression, and PTSD.
Signs and symptoms of relationship PTSD
People who have experienced symptoms of PTRS find them hard to deal with. Here are PTRS symptoms:
· feeling overwhelmed
· difficulty trusting others
· intense fear of the abusive partner
People who have had trauma in a past relationship may experience chronic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as
· heightened anxiety
Post-traumatic relationship syndrome is a serious mental health condition. Intrusive symptoms can significantly impact your quality of life if left untreated.
So if you or someone you love has these symptoms, please seek help from a trained therapist or a mental health professional to get appropriate treatment.
Long-term effects of relationship syndrome
Toxic relationships can affect existing or future relationships. The aftereffects of psychological trauma can lead to a fear of danger, mistrust, and hypervigilance. This can leave survivors feeling vulnerable and uncertain about their safety. That is making it hard to trust others, even those they used to have faith in.
Survivors of abuse with can experience a wide range of emotions, including distress, fear, shame, anger, shock, and confusion. It’s also common to feel that they blame themselves for what happened.
It is important to remember that the abuse is not your fault. You have the right to feel safe and secure in your relationships. People with symptoms of PTSD should get help and support from a therapist or counsellor if they feel overwhelmed or unsafe. Though reaching out for help can be difficult, this is a crucial step to regaining safety and trust.
PTRS vs. PTSD: What's the difference?
Though traditional PTSD and PTRS have similar symptoms, there are also several key differences that are important to understand. One of the biggest differences is the source of the trauma.
The source of trauma
Traditional PTSD is caused by a traumatic event or series of events such as natural disasters, combat, sexual assault, and serious accidents.
PTRS is related to a specific relationship. It can occur after a person experiences a traumatic event within a relationship, such as emotional abuse, physical violence, or infidelity.
The way the trauma is experienced
In standard PTSD, the traumatic event is typically experienced as an external threat. It is out of the person's control.
In PTRS, a person usually gets trauma from someone trusted and loved. The trauma can be physical, emotional, or psychological. It can be just as severe and long-lasting as direct abuse.
People experiencing PTSD are more likely to have avoidance symptoms. They stay away from places that bring back bad memories.
People who experience relationship trauma are more likely to face the cause of their trauma and deal with it.
What Causes Relationship PTSD?
People in abusive relationships go through traumatic events such as physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. This can include:
· emotional and physical manipulation
· physical violence
· verbal aggression
· sexual assault
· belittling and bullying
· lack of support from friends and family
These traumas can have long-term effects. Victims of abuse can get PTSD and develop symptoms of posttraumatic relationship syndrome.
What prevents you from building a new relationship?
If you broke up or got divorced, you may know how painful it could be. Healing from an abusive relationship may take months or even years without professional help. It is very hard to start a new relationship.
Some unhelpful beliefs about yourself and a lack of confidence could prevent you from moving on.
You may feel like you don’t deserve it.
If you feel like you don't deserve a healthy relationship, it's important to take some time to reflect on why you feel this way. It might be low self-esteem, the feeling of being unworthy, guilt, or shame.
Talk to a therapist or trusted friend about it. The therapist will address any underlying issues that are making you feel that way. He can help you find ways to work through them.
Remember that everyone deserves love and support!
You may have intrusive thoughts.
Interfering thoughts about a past traumatic experience can be difficult to manage. Toxic thoughts can enter your mind without warning. They can cause distress and anxiety. They may take the form of memories, images, or worries about a relationship that was particularly hurtful or damaging.
It is important to understand that these unwanted thoughts have no value. They are often a result of our own internal processing of the traumatic experience. That is why it is difficult to control them.
In order to manage intrusive thoughts, it is important to practice self-care and mindfulness, as well as seek professional help if needed.
You may feel unsure about new relationships.
It is difficult to start a new family or relationship after a past traumatic experience. It is because of feelings of uncertainty, doubt, and low self-confidence.
You may worry that you won't be able to trust someone again or that they won't understand your needs and feelings. You might feel anxious about opening up or even scared of the possibility of being hurt again.
It is normal to feel that way. It is also possible to move forward in a healthy way. Seek professional help to work through your worries and build the confidence necessary for entering new relationships with an open heart.
How to heal from relationship trauma
The process of recovering from trauma can be a difficult journey, but it is possible. There are many treatments for relationship trauma, such as psychotherapy, meditation, or hypnotherapy. They can help you reduce the emotional and psychological impact of the traumatic event.
There is also a network of support. A healthcare provider may recommend you join a support group.
There are numerous effective therapies available to assist you in healing from emotional trauma. A trained therapist who specializes in trauma can help you learn more about your feelings and teach you coping strategies.
I will name just a few effective therapies that I provide to my clients.
Brain Working Recursive Therapy (BWRT)
It is a new type of psychotherapy that can help you change your emotional response to traumatic situations. So, you will move on and feel free of trauma.
BWRT is content-free. That means you do not need to tell the therapist about sensitive traumatic episodes.
Despite its novelty, BWRT has become popular recently. A growing number of therapists have employed this technique in their practice.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is a psychotherapy for PTSD. It uses bilateral stimulation to help the patient process and reduce the impact of traumatic memories.
Hypnotherapy is a type of therapy that uses hypnosis. It helps people with mental health issues, such as PTSD. During a session, the patient is put into a trance-like state. They are then more open to suggestions and can access their subconscious.
Hypnotherapy uses visualization and relaxation techniques. They are very effective in reducing anxiety and tension.
Studies have also shown that hypnotherapy can improve sleep and reduce the frequency and intensity of flashbacks and nightmares in people with PTSD.
While working with a mental health practitioner, you can take some extra steps yourself. That could be additional support on your journey of recovery. Here are some steps you may take:
· Acknowledge and accept that the trauma has happened.
· Set boundaries. Set clear limits on how much you are willing to talk about your feelings.
· Take care of yourself; make sure you get enough rest and eat healthy foods.
· Exercise: physical activity is a great way to release stress and boost your mood.
· Talk about your feelings and experiences with someone you trust.
· Practice mindfulness or meditation exercises to help you stay calm and relaxed.
· Don't blame yourself. It's not your fault that you are experiencing trauma. It's just part f life.
These tips can help you manage your emotional pain and begin the process of healing. Healing requires time. But patience and understanding will be very helpful if you want to find peace again.