It’s no secret that people with PTSD often go through phases where all their relationships get affected by this disorder. But something not many people talk about is the emotional dependence or emotional reliance of PTSD patients.
Emotional dependent people have a hard time taking responsibility for their feelings, they often feel helpless and experiment recurrent griefs, which of course, will harm their own mental health, spiritual balance, and almost all the relationships they have built and wish to build.
In this blog I will talk about how come PTSD patients develop emotional dependence, and what can they and their relatives or friends do to help them heal.
What Is Emotional Dependence and How It Affects PTSD Patients
If you know someone with PTSD you may think it’s strange to talk about emotional dependence, mostly because what the general public knows about PTSD is that the ones who have it usually seek isolation and avoid most of the social gatherings.
How come somebody with this disorder may have emotional dependence? Let me explain further.
Emotional dependence is a huge category of Psychological Constructs. While emotional dependence refers mostly to a series of complex thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated with the need for interaction and receiving valuable feedback from valuable people; emotional reliance refers specifically to the concern and emphasis on other’s appraisals for one’s personal worth.
To put it in simple words: people who rely primarily on attention, love, and empathy from others to maintain “healthy” self-esteem have a high emotional reliance, and it can lead to poor mental health. In the case of people with PTSD, it can make the road to recovery harder than expected.
And now you may be thinking, “okay Baz, but don’t you always talk about how important is to have the support of your loved ones?”, and yes I do! But you see, the problem is not the love and support you have to give, is that the person with PTSD is solely relying on that to feel safe.
Unhealthy attachments may be developed during the apparition of the first PTSD symptoms but can become very strong during the recovery.
Highly emotional reliant patients heavily depend on your trust, support, positive comments, recurrent advice, and possible admiration. But the constant desire for these things affects negatively the way the patients handle stressful events, essentially because their self-evaluations are determined by unpredictable circumstances.
This puts the patients in a spiral of distress because they truly want you to love them and support them, but all they do to generate that effect also causes them the fear of rejection, abandonment issues, emotional vulnerability, and helplessness.
How to Know If You Are Emotional Reliant?
Please allow me to clarify that having some reliance on your friends, coworkers, coaches, and partners is perfectly fine. Having someone to trust, to guide you during hard times, or sometimes just a confident is great.
What slowly becomes a problem is feeling like you need to do things to please this person. Always.
Here I ask you 13 questions to help you notice if you may have a high emotional reliance:
Do you feel unlovable or unworthy if someone doesn’t tell you explicitly that they love you or care about you?
Do you need constant attention from specific people to feel good?
Do you feel like you need others to validate what you think about yourself?
Do you find yourself thinking about the fear of being alone?
Have your friends or family told you that you’re needy?
Do you often feel anxious or tense while around others?
Do you feel bad if you think you’re not up to other people’s expectations?
If someone you talk to often doesn’t talk to you in a day, do you feel angry or worried?
If someone does not react the way you expected them to, do you feel ashamed or worried?
Have you found yourself thinking despitefully about someone because they didn’t give you the attention you needed?
Do you often think that if someone in particular paid attention to you, you would feel better than you feel right now?
Do you feel considerably safer around people who constantly praise you?
Do you think your sadness, anger, or fear could diminish significantly if you received the support of specific people in your life?
If most or at least half your answers are positive, you may be emotionally dependent on the people around you. And if you also have been diagnosed with PTSD, you will need to work hard on your self-reliance.
How Can You Become Emotional Self-Reliant?
I am a strong believer in the power of thoughts. Thoughts affect your emotions, they can take you on a pleasant journey of memories, or through a bumpy road under terrible weather full of emotional distress.
If you can learn to balance your thoughts, you will balance your emotions and easy up your PTSD recovery road.
To become more self-reliant you need to be aware of your trauma. How did it happen, how it affected you in the past, present, and future. How it could be affecting your loved ones, but especially what you can do to overcome it.
I understand how hard this is for someone with PTSD. I understand that some days you just want to disappear, to stay in the darkness of your room because it comforts you. But notice how you feel after talking about your trauma with someone you trust.
You feel relieved, someone like, at least for a moment, you didn’t have the weight of the world on your shoulders. That is called balance.
Talking about your feelings may not make your disorder disappear in a day, but it opens psychological processes and starts emotional and spiritual journeys of awareness. And once you truly know how you feel, you can do things to feel better.
It’s like fixing a pipe at your house. If all you know is that the water bill is too high, you can’t know how to fix it.
So what do you do? You start digging and finding information that could help you understand what’s going on to fix it. Maybe the first step is calling customer’s support so they can tell you more, and if they have everything right, you start checking if there’s a leak in the house you were unaware of.
Becoming self-reliant while having PTSD is possible, and it does not mean blaming for yourself for whatever happened. It’s about understanding the inner you and taking responsibility for your feelings. You can’t control external inputs, but you can manage the way they make you feel. And the more you get to know yourself and your trauma, the better and faster you can heal.
Having Emotional Responsible Relationships with a PTSD Partner
Living with trauma is already difficult, so the entire romantic relationship topic can cause severe distress in the patient’s mind.
A person who has lived a trauma that turns into post-traumatic stress disorder usually will present symptoms between three to one year after the incident. Among the common PTSD symptoms we can find:
- Insomnia and nightmares
- Irritability and angry outburst
- Avoid social gatherings
- Physical pain, excessive sweating, nausea, and tremors
- Emotional numbness
- Difficulty feeling positive emotions
- Constantly being on guard
- Overwhelming shame or guilt
- Problems focusing on daily activities
All those symptoms interfere with having a regular life, it affects every area of the person’s dynamic. From their job, friendships, community, coworkers, romantic relationships, and the way they see themselves.
For those not suffering the disorder, the journey is not exactly easy either. They have to face situations like:
- Feeling that your loved one doesn’t desire you anymore, when in fact is that sometimes they are just too emotionally numbed or overwhelmed to be thinking about sex
- Feeling that you annoy them more than ever when the truth is that they have unexpected emotional bursts
- Reliving a trauma that’s not theirs, but that cause them their own
- Feeling isolated from others because your partner doesn’t want to go out or bring people over.
- Feeling a growing emotional distance between them
If you are a partner or relative of someone with PTSD you need to learn to have your limits. You may love them very much, but your mental health is also important. And sometimes, lovers, friends, or parents need to take a step back for the sake of both.
Now that you know more about emotional dependency, you can identify possible red alerts and help the person you care about by doing the following things:
- Be there to listen, not to judge or tell them what you would do or would have done
- Encourage them to seek professional help, but don’t make it mandatory unless it is terribly affecting you. PTSD patients need to want to go to therapy, not feel pressure to do so because they will abandon it very soon.
- Choose a day for yourselves, make dinner together, give both of you a safe space to be open and communicate assertively
- Self-esteem is an antidote for feelings of sadness and guilt, but over-complementing them may lead them to high levels of emotional reliance, and that’s what we need to avoid.
- Encourage them to say to themselves the same positive things you tell them so they don’t depend on your feedback all the time.
- Invite them to do relaxing activities: meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, art therapy, etc.
- Explore your own feelings about this condition. Your loved one may have trouble identifying the scenarios where they are being mean and rude, but if you learn to recognize these situations and how to effectively communicate your personal desires (and limits), both of you will feel better around each other
- But of course, if they also need you to start or stop doing something specific, you must be willing to listen and open to negotiate.
But the most important thing you can do for them is helping them understand their thoughts, actions, and feelings are not your responsibility. That you are there as a support resource because you love them, but the help they need can’t only be delivered by you and you only.
By doing this you help them make the transition from ‘victim’ to ‘survivor’.
What Can I Do to Avoid Being Emotionally Dependent on My Loved Ones?
As a trauma survivor, you may believe that whatever happened to you left a permanent scar, that it doesn’t matter what you do because you will be like that forever.
I am very glad to disappoint you, friend. Healing is possible. Moving forward is something you will achieve. And there’s a chance you can recover past relationships, but you will also be able to begin new ones.
My recommendation to you is to be aware of your own feelings. Because when you keep a physical or mental journal of how you feel, why you feel that, and how it began, then you can be prepared to stop negative feelings from showing up again.
But to do this you need to understand that your trauma, even though it is a huge deal, does not define you as a person, employee, father, girlfriend, or friend. You are so much more than your trauma; you just need to learn how to see it.
It’s not about burring your negative emotions; it’s about getting to know them so well that you can take their power away. And friend, any of the people that surround you can do this for you.
Emotional dependency is not and will not help you, but emotional support and your hard work will.