Does Trauma Affect Relationships?

Trauma affects not only the survivor with PTSD but also their close family relationships or friendships. The symptoms of PTSD can cause problems with trust, closeness, communication, and problem solving.

In the first weeks and months following a trauma, survivors may feel angry, detached, tense or worried in their relationships. In time, most are able to resume their prior level of closeness in relationships. Yet the 5-10% of survivors who develop PTSD may have lasting relationship problems.

The trauma survivor may often have trauma memories or flashbacks. He or she might go to great lengths to avoid such memories. Survivors may avoid any activity that could trigger a memory. If the survivor has trouble sleeping or has nightmares, both the survivor and partner may not be able to get enough rest.

Dealing with these symptoms can take up a lot of the survivor’s attention. He or she may not be able to focus on the partner. It may be hard to listen carefully and make decisions together with someone else. Partners may come to feel that talking together and working as a team are not possible.

Certain types of “man-made” traumas can have a more severe effect on relationships. These traumas include:

Childhood sexual and physical abuse


Domestic violence






Prisoner of war

Do all trauma survivors have relationship problems?

Many trauma survivors do not develop PTSD. Also, many people with PTSD do not have relationship problems. People with PTSD can create and maintain good relationships by:

Building a personal support network to help cope with PTSD while working on family and friend relationships.

Sharing feelings honestly and openly, with respect and compassion.

Building skills at problem solving and connecting with others.

Including ways to play, be creative, relax, and enjoy others.

If you need to seek professional help, call us today.


Many treatment approaches may be helpful for dealing with relationship issues. Options include:

One-to-one and group therapy

Anger and stress management

Assertiveness training

Couples counseling

Family education classes

Family therapy

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