The Alliance has compiled a number of resources available for survivors, their friends and families, and professionals assisting survivors in New York City.
Factsheets: PTSD and Relationships
A National Center for PTSD Fact Sheet.
How does trauma affect relationships?
Trauma survivors with PTSD often experience problems in their intimate and family relationships or close friendships.
PTSD involves symptoms that interfere with trust, emotional closeness, communication, responsible assertiveness, and effective problem solving.
Survivors of childhood sexual and physical abuse and survivors of rape, domestic violence, combat, terrorism, genocide, torture, kidnapping, and being a prisoner of war often report feeling a lasting sense of terror, horror, vulnerability, and betrayal that interferes with relationships.
In the first weeks and months following a traumatic event, survivors of disasters, terrible accidents or illnesses, or community violence often feel an unexpected sense of anger, detachment, or anxiety in their intimate, family, and friendship relationships. Most are able to resume their prior level of intimacy and involvement in relationships, but the 5-10% who develop PTSD often experience lasting problems with relatedness and intimacy.
Yet, many trauma survivors do not experience PTSD, and many people in intimate relationships, families, and friendships with individuals who have PTSD do not experience severe relational problems. People with PTSD can create and maintain successful intimate relationships by:
What can be done to help someone who has PTSD?
For many trauma survivors, intimate, family, and friend relationships are extremely beneficial. These relationships provide:
(1) Companionship and a sense of belonging, which can act as an antidote to isolation
(2) Self-esteem, which can act as an antidote to depression and guilt
(3) Opportunities to make a positive contribution, which can reduce feelings of failure or alienation
(4) Practical and emotional support when coping with life stressors
As with all psychological disturbances, especially those that impair social, psychological, or emotional functioning, it is best to seek treatment from a professional who has expertise in both PTSD and in treating couples or families. Many therapists with this expertise are members of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, whose membership directory contains a geographical listing and an indication of those who treat couples or families and PTSD. Survivors find a number of different professional treatments helpful for dealing with relationship issues, including individual and group psychotherapy for their own PTSD, anger and stress management, assertiveness training, couples communication classes, family education classes, and family therapy.
John N. Briere and Diana M. Elliott. (1994). Immediate and long-term impacts of child sexual abuse. Future of Children 4(2), 54-69.
Rebecca Coffey. (1998). Unspeakable truths and happy endings: Human cruelty and the new trauma therapy. Sidran Press, ISBN 1-886968-04-7 or 1-886968-05-5.
Patience Mason. (1990). Recovering from the war: A woman's guide to helping your Vietnam vet, your family, and yourself. Viking, ISBN 0-670-81587-X; Penguin, ISBN 0-14-009912-3.
Aphrodite Matsakis. (1996). Vietnam wives: facing the challenges of life with veterans suffering post traumatic stress. Sidran Press, ISBN 1-886968-00-4.
Michael Polenberg addresses the media and Denim Day supporters on behalf of Safe Horizon