Dating Someone with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Many people in the world person go through experiences which are stressful or at least extremely threatening to one’s physical integrity. While most are able to cope in some way or other, some are unable to process the emotions in the right way and end up developing post traumatic stress disorder. If you believe that the person you are dating is suffering from the condition, here are few things to keep in mind.

Find out about post traumatic stress disorder

The first thing you need to do when you suspect your partner of having post traumatic stress disorder is to gather information about the condition. Post traumatic stress disorder or post traumatic stress disorder is a psychological condition brought on by exposure to or confrontation with an experience which involved actual or threatened death or at least serious physical injury and which the person found highly traumatic. The most common symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder include reliving the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, emotional detachment, sleep abnormalities like insomnia, avoidance of reminders and extreme distress when coming across such reminders of the incident. Knowing about the condition will not only help you to correctly identify if your date is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder but will enable you to avoid behavioral and verbal cues which trigger off remembrance of traumatic experience in your partner. Likewise being informed about medications for post traumatic stress disorder will help you to understand side effects and contraindications. Anti-depressants are commonly prescribed in case of post traumatic stress disorder but these may dampen sexual desire or lead to sexual dysfunction – pertinent issues if you are romantically involved with someone suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

Be honest with yourself

Unlike people with ADHD or a physical condition, those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder are difficult to make out on the surface. The traumatic experience which they haven’t been able to process normally may lie hidden deep within their psyche only to erupt at odd hours as nightmares or flashbacks. In fact post traumatic stress disorder may have a delayed onset of years or even decades after the stressful event occurred; the condition may lie latent for a long time and then get triggered by even a specific body movement – if the trauma was primarily stored in the procedural memory – or by another stressful event such as the death of a loved one or perhaps by the diagnosis of a life-threatening medical condition. So unless you begin spending a lot of time together, you may not even suspect that your date has post traumatic stress disorder. A partner with post traumatic stress disorder can get suddenly lose control of his/her rational self, become aggressive, violent and even put you in danger. So consider at the outset whether you would really like to get seriously involved with someone suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. In fact if you haven’t gone out with such a person, it would be wise not to start now. Even if you are genuinely interested in your date, make sure you are not dating him/her out of pity. Individuals suffering from post traumatic stress disorder may victims of rape, extreme abuse, survivors of natural calamities or veterans of combat activities. It is very easy to feel sorry for people who have gone through such traumatic experiences; you may be led by a mistaken notion of ‘helping’ them romantically only to find that being in such a relationship is ultimately too stressful for you as well. Thus go ahead with dating a person suffering from post traumatic stress disorder only if you are sure that you share some abiding, common interests and enjoy being with each other.

Learn to accept unusual behavior

People suffering from post traumatic stress disorder not only suffer from psychological symptoms like nightmares, insomnia and emotional withdrawal but very often these also result in physical problems such as nervous tics, repetitive motions, headaches, muscle aches, even dry mouth and blurred vision in some instances. Thus you need to be understanding when you see your partner exhibiting nervousness, irritability, antsy movements or erratic behavior on a date. Don’t make too much of it but at the same time don’t criticize him/her for being unable to come to terms with the past event. Learn to empathize with your partner and gently try to divert his/her attention on to something else. One of the most common characteristics of a person with post traumatic stress disorder is a state of hyperarousal as a result of which he/she seems jumpy or easily startled, for apparently no reason. Thus while planning your dates it would be a good idea to choose places with soothing and pleasant environments instead of those which have an excess of stimuli or which may remind him/her of the unhappy incident.

Be open to discussion

If seriously dating a person with post traumatic stress disorder, it will certainly help you to know more about the painful incident from your partner’s past. Choose a stress-free moment and gently enquire how he/she came to be hurt so severely.  Take care not to judge your partner or to offer prompt advice on what he/she can do to forget it. It is likely that your date will not want to talk about the incident for fear of re-experiencing the painful emotions associated with it. Don’t nag at him/her to share her past with you but when you feel that your partner wants to talk about their past, be sure to listen actively and later offer unconditional support.

Let him/her take responsibility for getting better

It is crucial that your partner seek treatment for PSTD, if he/she is not already doing so. Encourage him/her to seek professional help and support your partner in the course of treatment. At the same time you should beware of enabling self-destructive behavior in your partner. As a result of being traumatized in past, he/she may sometimes display behavior that is difficult to support, despite your sincere love and best intentions. It is common for victims of rape or survivors of horrific accidents to succumb to depression or get addicted drugs, alcohol and even sex. If such self-destructive behavior is still in the initial stage, you could communicate your concerns to your partner. Offer him/her support to end this kind of behavior but don’t make excuses on their behalf or indirectly support their pathological behavior. Let your partner know that sooner or later, he/she will have to take charge of their own life and relationships.