Events and situations that can expose you to trauma include, but are not limited to domestic violence, sudden death of a loved one, accidents, natural disasters, childhood abuse, torture, and emotional or physical abuse.
When you experience trauma, the effects of it can lead to psychological distress and physical harm. Traumatic events can affect your mental stability, sense of safety, confidence, motivation, and emotional well-being.
Trauma can expose you to serious mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorder, addictions, anxiety and depression. It can also affect your ability to form and maintain healthy relationships. In other words, trauma can affect how you relate to friends, family, or co-workers.
If you have experienced trauma, it is normal to experience psychological, emotional and physical distress after an uncontrollable event. The article will provide you aid to be able to handle trauma and the effects of it on your relationship.
You will also learn how to cope effectively with trauma and improve your relationships.
How Trauma Affects Relationships
You are likely to have relationship problems if you have experienced:
Most people tend to suffer from traumatic experiences before the age of 18. When you experience childhood trauma, the effects of it can continue into adulthood, and even how you relate to others.
Childhood is a significant period, particularly for brain development. It is also a time when children not only learn how to develop healthy attachments, but also a sense of love and security.
However, when you experience childhood trauma, your brain development tends to be affected. Additionally, it may distort your sense of healthy relationships.
Effects of Childhood Trauma on Adult Relationships
If you are a survivor of childhood trauma, abuse, or neglect, you may not be able to form healthy relationships. Childhood trauma can affect your adulthood interactions in the following ways:
Trust and abandonment issues
Abandonment and trust issues are imminent due to traumatic childhood experiences. This is because you already have negative perceptions of the people who may have hurt you.
Consequently, you may not be able to trust anyone. You may also feel like you are not worthy of an intimate or compassionate relationship.
Engaging in destructive relationships
If you experienced childhood trauma, chances of ending up in an unhealthy relationship are often high. You may feel the urge to fix or change who you are in your intimate relationships.
You may also feel attracted to people who treat you badly because you were used to poor treatment as a child. Such occurrences can retraumatize you, but you may not be aware until much later in the relationship.
Inner chaos arising from the trauma may affect your ability to create realistic expectations for you and your significant other.
Inability to regulate emotions
If left untreated, childhood trauma can affect your ability to regulate emotions. Typical feelings of unresolved trauma may involve impulsivity, anger, sadness, shame, fear, anxiety, and even guilt.
You experience such feelings because trauma keeps you on high alert. It is important to take notice of how childhood experiences are affecting your thought patterns and ability to experience emotions as an adult.
Inflated self esteem and self worth
As a trauma survivor, you may feel unlovable, and even question your values and self-worth. The implications of questioning yourself include withdrawing and isolating from relationships. You’re also likely to become over-reliant on your partner.
Poor self-esteem and self-worth can make you doubt your judgment, who you are, and even your identity. That said, feeling unworthy, disconnected, and invalidating yourself means that childhood trauma still has significant effects on how you relate to others, and your life in general.
Every family member tends to react to a traumatic experience in his or her own unique way. Depending on the nature of the trauma, one person may want to spend more time with others, while the other may want to withdraw or go into self-isolation.
As a family, it is important that you take time to understand what each one of you is going through. Otherwise, misunderstandings, confusion, and communication problems are likely to arise.
Effects of Trauma on Family Relationships
Ways trauma can affect family relationships include:
- Different coping styles can result to irritability, anger, disagreements and confusion, particularly if you are not receptive to each other’s feelings and desires.
- As a parent, you may not know how to help your children cope effectively with a traumatic experience
- Communication problems can arise as everyone tried to cope with the traumatic experience in their own way
- Children may want to spend more time with their parents
- Teens may become defiant, particularly in the absence of an authority figure
- Meal times may be disrupted and family recreational activities neglected
- Members may feel exhausted, disconnected, neglected, and even less involved with one another
- In the event of losing a loved one, some family members may want to have a memorial service every year, while others may prefer to forget the event.
These reactions and many more can occur weeks, months, or years after a family’s traumatic experience.
One of the most common service-related mental illness is post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD can manifest as unwanted memories, emotional reaction to combat trauma. Not wanting to engage in activities you once enjoyed, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating.
Military trauma or PTSD can affect how you relate to your partner and children. Your partner can also experience vicarious or secondary trauma due to something you may have undergone in the course of your military service.
Effects of Military Trauma
1. Compassion fatigue
As a spouse to a military man or woman, you are likely to experience compassion fatigue. You develop compassion fatigue when caring for your loved one becomes too demanding.
You stop being compassionate, and instead become resentful. Compassion fatigue can have debilitating effects on your relationship, and even worsen your symptoms of PTSD.
2. Inability to offer emotional support in times of need
As a military spouse, you may feel overwhelmed when your partner starts venting or seeking empathy.
Tips on How to Cope with the Effects of Trauma
When left untreated, trauma can lead to misunderstandings, communication problems, loss of intimacy, and loss of trust. With that in mind, below are a few coping strategies:
Acknowledge the childhood trauma
One effective strategy of dealing with childhood trauma is acknowledging that it exists. It is also important to pay attention to how childhood trauma has been affecting your adult relationships.
If you feel it is contributing to unhealthy attachment in your relationships, low self-esteem, low self-worth, and inability to regulate your emotions, talk to your therapist.
Your therapist will help you re-establish a relationship with yourself, friends, family and co-workers. Your therapist will also help you deal with self-defeating patterns.
No matter the type of trauma you are experiencing, a therapist or coach can help you overcome the trauma in a safe and secure environment. Your therapist will draw attention to your trauma history, and help you process feelings surrounding the traumatic events and situations.
Working with a trauma counselor will also help you explore suppressed emotions. You will also gain insights on healthy ways of reprocessing the trauma, and how to confront individuals who’ve hurt you.
Some of the trauma-focused treatments your therapist may incorporate during therapy sessions include eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), stress management, behavioral therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Effective communication is necessary in successfully dealing with trauma within a family unit, for instance. Therefore, it is important for family members to keep communicating.
Each one of you should make a point of letting the other family members know what you are going through. It is also essential that you state how you would like to be helped.
Open communication helps to get rid of disagreements, confusion, irritability, anger, and any other feelings that may arise due to poor communication.
Join support groups
Support groups are a good source of social support. A support group creates a safe, trustworthy, and non-judgmental environment where you can share your feelings and thoughts freely.
A support group gives you an opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals so you can receive and offer support. You will also be able to discuss your feelings of loss, anger, and grief in a supportive environment.
It can also help you dealing with feelings of helplessness, loneliness, isolation, anxiety, depression, and even hopelessness.
Build your resilience
In order to cope with trauma, it is important that you stop identifying yourself with the things you’ve gone through. Through the help of trauma therapy, you can learn to forge forward.
Therefore, it is advisable that you start incorporating the insights and tips you’ve learned in therapy into your day-to-day life.
Meditation encompasses various strategies including relaxation and mindfulness meditation. Meditation can teach you how to focus your attention in the here and now.
Mindfulness meditation teaches you to focus on your thoughts, feelings, and emotions in a nonjudgmental way. As a result, you are likely to experience calmness, physical relaxation, and psychological well-being.
Therefore, be sure to practice mindfulness meditation at least 15 minutes every day.
Effective self-care strategies include getting adequate sleep, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly. Self-care also involves reducing exposure to situations or events that may trigger your trauma symptoms.
For instance, military spouses should avoid watching war-related movies, or graphic news stories.
Medication can be used together with therapeutic interventions. Medications that help with PTSD include anti-depressants such as sertraline, paroxetine, and fluoxetine. It is advisable that you seek medical advice before taking anti-depressants.
It is simple, yet difficult to do. Ask for help. Search support. Even if it is a good and trustworthy friend, that will do for a start. Share the burden. Let it out then let it go.
Remember it is not shame to seek for professional therapy but bravery. And you are brave; you have already made it through here. There are people who love you, who miss you and need you. You have them and you have your life. It is time for you to start living it peacefully.