What’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Can Narcissistic Relationships Cause PTSD?
Before we move onto “complex” post traumatic stress disorder, let’s define post traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a single and specific negative event, either experienced or witnessed, which has left an individual extremely terrified and hopeless. For instance; a car accident, witnessing an earthquake or a fire, the unexpected and tragic loss of a loved one can cause PTSD. People who suffer from such events can start showing PTSD symptoms days, weeks, months and sometimes years later.
Just like not everyone who suffers from tragic things shows signs of PTSD, not all tragic events cause PTSD. PTSD occurs when the tragic event causes the individual to feel extreme fear and despair especially if their own or their loved ones’ lives were in danger. Within this context, it looks like the chances of a narcissistic relationship causing PTSD are quite low. Because although narcissistic abuse may also cause fear, terror and despair; not all narcissists are prone to physical violence.
On the other hand, we used the words “a single and specific event” while defining PTSD. However, C-PTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is more common among war prisoners, domestic violence victims, people who were abused as a child, human trafficking victims, and overall those who were abused physically, sexually, emotionally or psychologically and systemically for a long period of time. Therefore, being exposed to the abuse coming from a narcissist, psychopath or some other emotional manipulator can very well cause a pathological and complex mental disorder such as C-PTSD.
The most distinctive symptom of PTSD; reminiscing the traumatic event or events frequently and reliving those tragic moments. This is not like just remembering a negative experience which can happen to all of us every once in a while, but more like extremely stressful and vivid flashbacks. While remembering these traumatic moments, the individual can experience the same level of fear, terror and despair as if the traumatic event is taking place once again in that very moment. The individual who’s suffering from PTSD can have frequent nightmares; they can also suffer from sleep, concentration and memory problems.
The individual can feel constantly threatened and therefore remain alert and restless. Hence, PTSD can cause the person to be easily irritated, frightened or angered. People suffering from PTSD can find it hard to control their feelings and reactions.
They can also show many signs of depression at the same time. These signs include; feeling hopeless about one’s future, isolating one’s self from others and avoiding having relationships with them, having negative thoughts about people and the world they live in, no longer enjoying the activities they used to enjoy, becoming emotionally numb or struggling with feelings like shame and guilt. People suffering from PTSD may also turn to alcohol or drugs and develop eating disorders.
Besides, the individual may avoid talking or thinking about the traumatic situation and try to stay away from the places, people or events that might remind them of their trauma.
All these symptoms we’ve mentioned above apply to both PTSD and C-PTSD. But C-PTSD differs from PTSD in terms of perpetrator perception. The person suffering from C-PTSD can constantly and obsessively think about the person who abused them, idealize them in their minds and try to rationalize the abuse they went through in an attempt to justify the abuser’s action because they have some sympathy for the abuser (see: Stockholm Syndrome), or on the contrary; they can be yearning for vengeance.
A lot of people suffering from C-PTSD avoid therapy because they don’t even know that they’re showing signs of a mental disorder, or perhaps because they simply believe these signs to be caused by their own weakness. Besides, since they’re likely to try to avoid remembering or talking about the traumatic events; they can be reluctant about seeking help.
But even when they do seek professional help, C-PTSD can be mistaken for a different illness or personality disorder since its naturally complex and it includes a lot of different symptoms. Therefore; it’s important to spread awareness about C-PTSD (both by the victims and the psychological counselors). Also, if you ever feel like your counselor isn’t helping much for whatever reason, you can always start searching for a new one.
If you’re unable to get professional help for whatever reason, there are a lot of things you can do on your own in order to cope with C-PTSD:
· First of all, you can start with getting away from the source of the trauma. In other words, you should cut the emotional abuser out of your life for good. (If you’re still in contact with the emotional manipulator, I recommend you to read my article titled ‘No Contact Rule’.)
· You should accept the fact what you’ve been through was abuse, acknowledge that emotional and psychological abuse are real problems and try to understand that you deserved none of it.
· If you have nobody to talk about your traumas, you can try writing them down.
· You can keep the people who are able to understand you and support you in your life; and get away from those who only judge and degrade you.
· You can reduce the things that causes you stress the best you can and try meditating and breathing exercises.
· Being out in the nature, consuming healthy food and exercising can also help a lot.
Also, you should accept that mental disorders cannot disappear all of a sudden, and that you need more time and effort. Therefore, you can stop putting too much pressure on yourself. Give yourself the time you need and deserve.
You can also find the articles on https://medium.com/@narsistsiz:
Nöropsikiyatri Arşivi. “ Çoklu Travmanın Etkilerine Alternatif Bir Yaklaşım: Karmaşık Travma Sonrası Stres Bozukluğu”. http://www.noropsikiyatriarsivi.com/sayilar/430/buyuk/312-314.pdf.
After Narcissistic Abuse. “Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD)”. https://afternarcissisticabuse.wordpress.com/life/complex-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-c-ptsd/.
You can also check out my other articles on the subject: