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Living with PTSD Can Be a Nightmare

Living with PTSD can be a nightmare. Learn how PTSD affects someone’s life and what dating or living with someone with PTSD is like on HealthyPlace.

Living with PTSD can be a nightmare. It can feel as though the trauma that caused PTSD was just the beginning of a horrendous journey into a dark, marshy bog full of quicksand from which there is no escape. Living with PTSD is like a nightmare because PTSD isn’t just about the traumatic event. Living with PTSD is a nightmare because of what someone thinks the trauma and PTSD mean about him/herself.

Living with PTSD Can Be a Nightmare Because It’s All-Encompassing

Trauma encompasses someone’s entire being. PTSD causes distress and impairment in functioning in so many areas of someone’s life. Someone’s ability to do well at work, at school, with tasks at home, in social situations, or any other important area of functioning is significantly diminished because of PTSD (Physical and Emotional Effects of PTSD).

PTSD changes the way someone thinks, feels, and acts. PTSD impacts the way someone thinks about him/herself and about others. PTSD is associated with:

  • Reduced income
  • Absenteeism
  • Physical, occupational, and social disabilities
  • High medical costs and medication usage.

Because PTSD pulls someone ever deeper into quicksand so that he/she is surrounded by the negative effects and feels he/she cannot escape, living with PTSD can be a nightmare.

What is Living with PTSD Like?

Just as nightmares are frightening, disorienting, and all-encompassing, so, too, is living with PTSD. All aspects of life, night and day, can be extremely difficult because general functioning is impaired (How to Help Someone with PTSD).

Often, someone experiencing PTSD after a trauma remains fixated on the traumatic event. To outsiders, it can seem as though the person is just ruminating, choosing to think about it rather than letting it go and moving on. This, though, is inaccurate. Trauma and PTSD change neural pathways, and all of the myriad effects of PTSD keep the person stuck. Fixating on the trauma isn’t intentional, no more than having a nightmare is intentional. Someone with PTSD would likely much rather think about something else; the fact that he/she often can’t is part of the nightmare of living with PTSD.

Living with PTSD can often be a struggle. PTSD barrages people with intrusive thoughts, memories, flashbacks, and nightmares. Someone experiencing PTSD is typically compelled to avoid many people, places, events, things, and discussions in order to avoid intrusive memories. Thoughts and emotions become negative; indeed, sometimes, people can’t feel anything positive at all. Additionally, someone living with PTSD is in a near-constant state of arousal, constantly on alert for danger. All of this is incredibly exhausting for someone living with PTSD.

Dating or Living with Someone with PTSD

PTSD can greatly interfere with relationships. It becomes difficult for someone with PTSD to relate to partners, family, friends, coworkers, and others. In turn, dating someone with PTSD or living with someone with PTSD can be incredibly challenging.

It is common for someone living with PTSD to experience:

  • Anger
  • Distrust
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Self-blame
  • Communication problems
  • Difficulties with problem-solving
  • Inability to feel close or intimate; or, conversely
  • Overly dependent, needy, and clingy

Living with someone with PTSD or even dating someone with PTSD can be hard, too, because dealing with the effects of PTSD can take all of someone’s time and energy, leaving little to give his/her partner.

Partners, friends, and family members of someone living with PTSD often begin to feel

  • Hurt
  • Shut out
  • Angry
  • Distrustful
  • Pressured
  • Stressed

Relationships can be harmed by the nightmare that is PTSD. Often, a vicious cycle begins (Sutton, 2011): Because of PTSD, the trauma survivor has difficulties with problem-solving, communication, trust, and intimacy; the loved one reacts to this with hurt, anger, stress, etc.; this reaction intensifies the survivor’s PTSD symptoms; the loved has an intensified reaction. This nightmarish cycle can be part of living with or dating someone with PTSD.

Living with PTSD Can Be a Nightmare, But People Wake Up

PTSD can indeed be a nightmare, for the trauma survivor as well as those in his/her life. There is good news, though. With time, PTSD treatments, using PTSD coping skills, and dealing positively with PTSD, people can and do wake up from the nightmare of PTSD to discover their beautiful lives.


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next: How to Diagnose PTSD
~ all articles on ptsd
~ all articles on ptsd and stress disorders

Last Updated: 30 August 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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