The end of a romantic relationship can create confusing feelings for former partners, some of which can be conflicting. Some partners might experience a sense of relief, relief the disagreements and the arguing has come to an end. While others may feel depressed, lonely, or anxious at the thought of forging a new path without their former partner. It is completely natural to engage in a period of mourning for the loss of relationship. However, if you exit a relationship carrying weighted baggage from that relationship you may need to consider the possibility that you may be experiencing post traumatic relationship disorder. If you are experiencing symptoms that seem similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), yet, the intense negative feeling typically occur within the context of a relationship, the thought of entering a new relationship, when you reflect on your previous relationship, or exhibit a pronounced distrust of others and their intentions, then you may be struggling with PTRS.
Post-Traumatic Relationship Stress (PTRS) is newly proposed mental health syndrome that occurs subsequent to the experience of trauma in an intimate relationship. It includes the intrusive and arousal symptoms of PTSD; however, it lacks the avoidance symptoms required for a diagnosis of PTSD due to a very different mode of coping with the traumatized state from that which is characteristic of individuals with PTSD. Unlike PTSD, PTRS stems from the fear, mistrust, and trauma that occurred within a romantic relationship. PTRS can be defined as an anxiety disorder that can occur subsequent to the experience of physical, emotional, or psychological abuse in the context of an intimate partner relationship.
Potential Symptoms of PTRS Include:
• Intense fear or rage at the former partner or future potential partners
• Intrusive images/flashbacks of abuse incurred during the course of the relationship (which were not present before the trauma experienced during the relationship)
• Extreme psychological distress
• Significant changes in eating/sleeping habits
• Significant changes/fluctuations in weight
• Restlessness/increased anxiety
• Interruptions in cognition
• Challenges with recall
• Fear of intimate relationships
• Sexual performance issues
• Feeling unsafe in the world
• Breakdown of social support system
• Marked distrust of others and their intentions
Thus, PTRS applies to individuals who have suffered physical, sexual, or severe emotional abuse in the context of an intimate relationship, and who consequently display the above symptoms. PTRS falls into the category of a posttraumatic illness, since it develops along with the experience of trauma and would not have occurred if the person had not experienced the traumatic stressor(s). Notably, the symptoms of PTRS is not a severe as those of PTSD as it does not include the array of symptoms which characterize complex PTSD such as, dissociation, threat of loss of life, pathological changes in identity, etc. Clients with PTRS appear to be overly courageous in taking on more than they can handle with a concomitant failure to engage in adequate psychological self-protection.
Fortunately, treatment approaches are available for PTRS. Treatment can include both individual psychotherapy and support groups. In PTRS, the client needs to be taught to use desensitization techniques to make the processing of the trauma more manageable. Treatment approach used for individuals should emphasize that traumatic relationships can not only be survived but post traumatic growth can often occur.