PTSD from Emotional Abuse
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, is mostly associated with soldiers returning from war. After the horrors witnessed in such an unnatural setting, many wo/men have a difficult time returning to “normal” life, often suffering from flashbacks, panic attacks, and severe anxiety.
Contrary to popular misconceptions, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Acute Stress Disorder (or Reaction) are not typical responses to prolonged abuse. They are the outcomes of sudden exposure to severe or extreme stressors (stressful events). Yet, some victims whose life or body have been directly and unequivocally threatened by an abuser react by developing these syndromes. PTSD is, therefore, typically associated with the aftermath of physical and sexual abuse in both children and adults. (Source)
Any traumatic event can trigger it. Rape, assault, acts of physical or verbal violence, even repeated emotional abuse or the sudden split of a significant relationship, especially if abuse was involved.
Repeated abuse has long lasting pernicious and traumatic effects such as panic attacks, hypervigilance, sleep disturbances, flashbacks (intrusive memories), suicidal ideation, and psychosomatic symptoms. The victims experience shame, depression, anxiety, embarrassment, guilt, humiliation, abandonment, and an enhanced sense of vulnerability. (Source)
I’m rather ashamed to admit that I’ve experienced them all. These last few weeks have made me realize just how deep the auctioneer traumatized me. It was my husband who noticed, actually. He said that I was exhibiting symptoms of PTSD, and he was right. How embarrassing to be experiencing PTSD because of such a short-lived relationship.
But there it is.
However, this reaction doesn’t reflect me or my ability to cope as much as it speaks to the depth of the abuse. The depth of the trauma caused by covert emotional, cruel verbal, and even borderline sexual abuse, not to mention the sudden change in his personality and subsequent abandonment.
The first phase of PTSD involves incapacitating and overwhelming fear. The victim feels like she has been thrust into a nightmare or a horror movie. She is rendered helpless by her own terror. She keeps re-living the experience through recurrent and intrusive visual and auditory hallucinations (“flashbacks”) or dreams. In some flashbacks, the victim completely lapses into a dissociative state and physically re-enacts the event while being thoroughly oblivious to her whereabouts.
In an attempt to suppress this constant playback and the attendant exaggerated startle response (jumpiness), the victim tries to avoid all stimuli associated, however indirectly, with the traumatic event. Many develop full-scale phobias (agoraphobia, claustrophobia, fear of heights, aversion to specific animals, objects, modes of transportation, neighbourhoods, buildings, occupations, weather, and so on).
My fear has been so great, that an email from him throws me into a panic attack, knowing that it just contains more pain. I don’t read them when they come in. In fact, I no longer know if they do or not, thanks to email filters that just delete them before I even see them.
Thank goodness for technology.
Emotional abuse, like gaslighting as well as so many other insidious forms, is hard to recognize and even harder to prove. Often, the only indication that your partner is causing emotional damage is to trust yourself and how you feel.
- Are you asking yourself if you’re crazy?
- Are you questioning reality?
- Do you feel blamed for everything in the relationship?
- Do you feel unsafe to talk with your partner about anything?/li>
Remember…is s/he charming? That is a huge red flag and a sign of an emotional predator. Certainly not all charming people are predators or abusive, but it is something of which to take note, especially if they are particularly charming. Please, please look closer, or perhaps, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Find out about their past relationships. How many? How did they end? Do they take responsibility for their actions? Their words? Are they relatively consistent in their words/actions?
#1 indication: They don’t take responsibility for their actions.
Please read these links on Emotional & Sexual Abuse and learn to recognize the signs early so you can get out before you fall in love. Sometimes the signs are so subtle you miss them. We must learn to protect ourselves and strengthen our armor against this insidious slings and arrows.
- This is a War: Emotional Abuse
- Emotional Abuse
- Symptoms of Emotional Abuse
- Love is Respect – Stop Dating Abuse
- Emotional Abuse Quiz
- Dr. Phil: Signs of Emotional Abuse & the Effects of Emotional Abuse
- Emotional Abuse is heart and soul mutilation
- Domestic Violence & Abuse, including the cycle of abuse
- Are You Dating an Abuser? – Psychology Today
Please believe me when I say that these actions are insidious. I mean it. They are so subtle and often covered up by grand gestures of love and excessive affection. Sexual ecstasy and talking of how special you are mixed with the depth of connection & intimacy. It is very intoxicating and convincing, but beneath it all there might be a constant assault on your sense of self through gaslighting and other forms of covert abuse.
The first step is recognizing abuse as abuse. One very surprising thing I learned about myself over the past few weeks is that some types of emotional abuse feel like love to me. Another reason the trauma is so deep: it’s not just the damage from the auctioneer, but it is unhealed damage from a lifetime of emotional and sexual abuse. So many people don’t even know what a healthy relationship looks like because most of what they know has been dysfunctional.
Research PTSD and Emotional Abuse. If you are exhibiting any of the signs, you might be trapped in a betrayal or trauma bond with the abuser. This makes it even harder to get away and heal.
Let us all learn how to protect ourselves from such people, for in this society, there is no other recourse. No way to prove it. No way to make them accountable for the damage they cause. Our only hope of defense against this type of abuse is to recognize the danger early, reinforce our armor, and get away before a trauma bond can be created.
**update 7/25/12** It has since become clear that it wasn’t borderline sexual abuse. It was sexual abuse and even sexual assault that last week, which does explain the depth of PTSD, although emotional abuse alone can cause PTSD, as emotional abuse can do enough damage on its own. Plus, the worst, long-lasting effects of any physical, verbal, or sexual abuse/assault is the emotional and psychological damage. May you all find peace.
**update 1/27/13**I’ve now been through six months of intense rape recovery therapy since the above update, and I’ve learned a lot more about PTSD. Become familiar with terms like flashback, dissociative state, cognitive dissonance, depersonalization, hyper-vigilance, etc. These are all symptoms of serious PTSD. I’ve learned that I have chronic PTSD from a lifetime of abuse that I didn’t consciously recognize as abuse, as it’s been systematically normalized by family and society, in many cases. Chronic PTSD leaves a person very vulnerable to further abuse and assaults. Please seek out a licensed therapist who can help you work through your PTSD and break that Betrayal Bond, if you’re still trapped with your abuser.
You can follow my journey with the links from the post called Polyamory Podcast Hiatus, also anything with the tag “austin poly rapist.” It’s an interesting one, and it might be helpful to you, reader, as it shows how one is in so much denial at first because of the shock, and how, if you commit to healing, you can uncover some pretty horrific things and extensive PTSD. Still, I’d rather know, accept, and heal than to fall into the same trap with another predator.
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~ by omgrey on April 16, 2012.
Posted in Lost in the Aether, Romance & Relationships, Trauma & Recovery
Tags: author, betrayal bond, broken heart, emotional abuse, fear, grief, healing, heartbroken, honesty, intimacy, love, misogyny, non-monogamy, o.m. grey, olivia grey, open, open marriage, passion, polyamory, post traumatic stress disorder, ptsd, relationship advice, relationships, romance, sex, shattered, trauma