Relationship PTSD Symptoms in Women

relationship ptsd

relationship ptsd


The term post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is one you may be familiar with in a general sense without understanding its implications. 

For example, we often think only military veterans can have PTSD. In reality, anyone can experience the symptoms. 

  • Traumatic events can be one-offs like a terrorist attack, sexual assault, or natural disaster. 
  • Trauma can also occur over time, as is the case with childhood abuse.
  • Another scenario where PTSD may occur is following a toxic relationship. Relationship PTSD can make it challenging to form genuine bonds in the future. Even if your past relationships didn’t involve domestic violence or physical assault, relationship PTSD could still occur.

Relationships that are distressing and cause you pain can have long-lasting effects on your mental and emotional well-being. These stressful events and painful memories can contribute to a wide range of mood symptoms. 

When you trust and love someone, and they criticize you or put you down or try to control and manipulate you, it’s not just painful at the moment it’s occurring. When you experience toxic or emotionally abusive relationships, it can influence your feelings of safety, self-worth, and self-confidence.

Once you end a toxic relationship, you may feel like its effects still trap you. You may experience constant reminders of the relationship, and that’s because you can’t just walk away from trauma.


What Is Relationship PTSD?

Generally, posttraumatic stress disorder can lead to lingering feelings of distress and fear after an event. Symptoms include flashbacks and avoidance and other similar symptoms that persist after the traumatic event ends.

  • When you experience an abusive relationship, you may end the abuse, but not the effects.
  • Mental health experts describe this situation as post-traumatic relationship syndrome or PTRS. A relatively new term, PTRS, occurs following the experience of trauma in an intimate relationship.
  • PTRS includes the arousal and intrusive signs of PTSD, but it doesn’t have the avoidance symptoms that are part of a PTSD diagnosis. 
  • PTRS is also described as an anxiety disorder occurring after the experience of abuse, physically, emotionally, or psychologically within the context of an intimate partner relationship.

When someone has PTSD, they might try to block out or avoid memories. The big difference with PTRS is that you continue to revisit and experience memories over and over again. With traumatization, it’s challenging to move forward and build healthy relationships with partners in the future.  

When you have PTRS, you’re fully aware of everything that happened since you can’t avoid memories and reminders of the relationship. You may try to deal with your emotional response since you can’t numb the distress.

You can experience PTRS without having any threat of physical harm. Symptoms can include horror, rage, and fear.


Causes of PTRS

Direct causes of post-traumatic relationship stress can include physical abuse, sexual abuse, including sexual coercion, or emotional abuse. Emotional abuse includes manipulation, gaslighting, and control.

Indicators of a toxic dynamic can cause PTRS, such as silent treatment or ignoring you. When a partner is unfaithful, this can also lead to PTRS. Cheating is known as betrayal trauma, although it’s not on its abuse.


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What Are the Long-Term Effects of Relationship PTSD?

When you don’t receive help, relationship PTSD tends to be progressive, getting worse over time. 

  • You may feel isolated because you feel you cannot share what you went through with other people.
  • You may have an ongoing fear of more trauma, making it difficult to relax or practice self-care. 
  • When you’re constantly feeling stressed and aren’t engaging in self-care, you may experience burnout and physical symptoms. 
  • After you experience PTSD from a romantic relationship, you might feel unsafe in the world in general, and you can’t feel safe with anyone around you. 
  • Some people also blame themselves for what they went through, leading to feelings of unworthiness and guilt.
  • You could avoid relationships altogether, including ones that are healthy and nurturing.


PTSD Symptoms in Women

PTSD symptoms in women are similar to PTRS symptoms, with a few exceptions. In general, PTSD symptoms in women can include:

  • Avoidance of reminders of the trauma. Avoidance in PTSD tends to be more common in women than men. Avoidance includes emotional avoidance and behavioral avoidance. Behavioral avoidance means avoiding the people, places, things, or other environmental triggers that remind you of trauma. In women, avoidance is one of the most common PTSD symptoms.
  • Hyperarousal is a term that refers to having a heightened state of anxiety. Hyperarousal symptoms include excessive startle reflex, problems with concentration, irritability, panic attacks, and hypervigilance.
  • Re-experiencing the trauma is a common symptom in trauma survivors. You might have intrusive, unwanted thoughts and memories related to the trauma, nightmares, or flashbacks. Women tend to experience this more than men.
  • Emotional numbness is the symptom of PTSD that tends to be much less common in PTRS. Emotional numbness means you lack emotion, lose interest, and feel detached from other people. You may also experience social isolation as a result.


Why Do Women Experience Symptoms of PTSD Differently Than Men?

One theory why women might experience PTSD differently than men is that women are more likely to internalize things, meaning more internalizing disorders like depression and anxiety.

On the other hand, men are more likely to develop externalizing disorders, like substance abuse or have angry outbursts. 

Many women may wait longer to get treatment or not get it at all.


Relationship PTSD Symptoms

While there is some overlap, some of the most common signs of PTSD stemming from a relationship include:

  • Constantly feeling on-edge: We talked about this above, but in the particular context of a relationship, you may constantly worry about a future romantic partner ridiculing you or starting a fight with you. You may be overly aware of triggers that could lead to situations similar to your past trauma.
  • Overreaction: If you experienced past trauma in a relationship or always felt like you were walking on eggshells, that could make you hypercritical of your current partner. If you notice yourself overreacting to little or unimportant things, you might reflect on why that’s happening. These can also be known as reactivity symptoms. 
  • Problems with communication: Following a relationship leading to trauma, you might be less willing to talk to a future partner about what you’re feeling. You may have a hard time letting your guard down or making decisions together.
  • Turning off your emotions: You might not let yourself feel positive emotions after you’ve gone through a relationship filled with negative ones.

So what can you do if you notice the signs of PTSD or, more specifically, relationship PTSD in yourself?

The best option is to seek help as soon as you can. PTSD, when left untreated, can not just negatively affect current and future relationships. Untreated PTSD or PTRS can lead to complications like substance use disorders and other mental disorders. 

Contact the team at Anchored Tides Recovery by calling 866-600-7709 to learn more about treatment options, such as cognitive processing therapy and exposure therapy. 

MDMA PTSD: Recovering from Trauma




So many women have dealt with trauma. Trauma is often the underlying contributor to substance abuse problems. In an interesting turn of events, there’s research currently looking at the possibility of MDMA PTSD treatments. Researchers believe MDMA could be a potential treatment for past trauma, yet it’s also a mind-altering drug, raising some questions. With that in mind, below, we talk about what MDMA is and how it could help with trauma and severe PTSD in MDMA-assisted psychotherapy or MDMA-assisted therapy. 


What is MDMA?

MDMA is a synthetic recreational drug with hallucinogenic and stimulant effects. Also known as Molly or ecstasy, MDMA comes as a capsule or tablet. Along with being energizing, this substance can create distortions in perception and time. Some people who use it recreationally find it enhances their sensory experiences, which they find enjoyable. The synthetic drug is also an entactogen. Entactogens are drugs that increase empathy and self-awareness.

When someone uses street drugs like recreational Molly or ecstasy, along with being illegal, it’s also dangerous. Molly contains contaminants in many cases when it’s purchased on the streets. When the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) seizes Molly from the streets, they often find it has other drugs and no MDMA at all.

As one example, researchers in Washington State and Florida analyzed substances being sold as Molly a few years ago. Those substances were primarily methylone. Methylone is a synthetic stimulant in bath salts. People who buy illegal Molly often have no idea what they’re using.


The Effects of MDMA

If you take MDMA, you might begin to feel effects within 45 minutes of the initial dose. Then, there’s a peak on the effects anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes after you initially feel the drug. These effects, on average last for three hours.

In the short-term, effects include:

  • An increased sense of well-being
  • More extroversion
  • Empathy and emotional warmth toward others
  • Willingness to talk about emotionally charged memories
  • Enhanced sensory perception

These effects can sound positive and compelling, but adverse events can occur as well. Fatal overdoses are rare with this drug but possible. Acute adverse effects of using ecstasy or Molly include high blood pressure, panic attacks, and feeling faint.

One of the most significant but rare adverse effects of this substance is hyperthermia, which is a rise in body temperature. Even moderate amounts of the substance can impact your body’s ability to regulate temperature, which can lead to harmful side effects, especially in warm or hot places.


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The Effects of Trauma

So many women are affected by trauma in their lives. Trauma can occur from any number of events, including rape or sexual assault, physical or verbal abuse, or exposure to something extremely frightening.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), trauma is an emotional response to a highly negative event. Experiencing short-term trauma is a normal reaction to something terrible. Longer-term trauma can impact your daily life and functionality, at which point it might mean a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. Signs of trauma include anxiety and panic disorders, depression, and even suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Following the event, trauma can manifest days, months, or years later.


Treating PTSD

There are various options available to treat PTSD conventionally. Examples include:

  • Therapy: Like cognitive behavioral therapy, talk therapy is beneficial for people with a history of a traumatic event. When you participate in a psychotherapy session, you can learn how to cope with feelings in your life, boost your self-esteem and improve your symptoms. Psychotherapy for people diagnosed with PTSD often helps improve daily functionality. 
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: EMDR allows you to focus on something your therapist is doing, like flashing a light. Then, you are encouraged to replace your trauma memories with positive thoughts.
  • Medications: When you have PTSD or traumatic memories, your brain often perceives and processes threats differently. Your brain chemicals may be imbalanced, so you might constantly feel on-edge or jumpy. Medications can help you with these symptoms and regain a normalized perspective.

The nature of MDMA being a “Club Drug” means that many women, and people, associate its use with traumatic experiences. Panic attacks, sexual assault, overdose, being drugged, or triggering pre-existing conditions are just some of the MDMA-related scenarios that have caused PTSD, but there is help available.

If you, or someone you love, is experiencing club drug-related trauma, or MDMA PTSD, let the team of brilliant women at Anchored Tides Recovery help. Calling 866-600-7709 will put you in touch with a care coordinator who can go over some options and provide you with some helpful information. Help is just a phone call away!