Can You Get PTSD from Emotional Abuse?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a common anxiety disorder. The condition comes with a variety of symptoms that can make everyday life significantly harder to cope with. While most people associate PTSD with soldiers returning home from war, physical trauma is not the only cause.
Emotional trauma can also be a leading cause of PTSD and comes with the same symptoms as PTSD caused by negative physical experiences. Emotional abuse and trauma can cause the development of PTSD, and the impact of the condition on those that have already experienced such intense negative situations can lead to even more problematic issues in daily life management.
How Emotional Abuse Causes PTSD
Emotional abuse can happen at any time, but it is always incredibly damaging to the abuse victim. Abuse can come from any direction, whether it’s from a family member, friends, or romantic partners. Emotional abuse is often cyclical, and those that have experienced and even escaped emotionally abusive situations often find themselves drawn to relationships where they will experience similar abuse patterns. The main examples of this type of abuse include:
- Physical threats
- The threat of abandonment
- Regular lying
- Slander or negative statements about the victim (to them or others) including excessive criticism
- Forced isolation
- Unequal power dynamics with the victim being treated like a child
The core of emotional abuse is manipulation. It is a tactical approach to a relationship that is designed to give all of the power in the relationship to the abuser and can be just as negatively impactful as instances of physical abuse. That means abuse victims are exposed to the risks of developing PTSD.
The Effects of Emotional Abuse
The most common side effect of emotional abuse is denial of the situation. However, those in an abusive relationship may also experience intense feelings of:
The intense emotional type of trauma can then cause experiences such as mood changes, difficulty sleeping, or difficulties with concentration. While psychological trauma doesn’t always mean that the victim will develop PTSD, it certainly can. Emotional abuse often occurs over a long time, and that leads to serious disruption of mental health and daily living.
Diagnosing PTSD caused by Emotional Abuse
PTSD usually develops in the aftermath of a frightening experience. That includes long-term living situations where emotional abuse was occurring. You will be diagnosed with emotional abuse PTSD if you display the following symptoms:
- Mood changes and outbursts of anger
- Intense responses to loud noises or unexpected events
- Depression and negativity
- Nightmares and problems with sleeping
- Emotional flashbacks where you relive the trauma to the point where your body starts to react in the same way
For younger victims of childhood trauma, other symptoms can include bedwetting, being overly attached to non-abusive adults, or even regression.
Complex PTSD from emotional abuse is more likely to develop if you have been previously exposed to the traumatic events that you are now going through or have recently gone through. A support system is critical for anyone who has experienced emotional abuse, especially if there is an existing history of mental health issues or substance abuse. However, PTSD of all kinds can now be treated very effectively through a combination of medication, therapy, and even surgical procedures such as stellate ganglion blocks.
If you have experienced emotional abuse or believe that you are currently in an emotionally abusive relationship then it’s vital that you get help as soon as possible.