Trauma and Toxic Relationships: A Match Made in Hell
Trauma has always had a very diverse set of definitions dependent on criteria set forth by the DSM-5. If you are determined to have a diagnosis, then we look at what is going on in your life, see if it fits, and there you go; we say that you have trauma or, more specifically, a diagnosis of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
A working diagnosis can be essential for a clinician to work out a treatment plan and, sometimes, for insurance reimbursement. Working with a client is even more important to discuss what the client views as trauma and what is interfering with living life to its fullest. This is probably a long-winded way of saying that even if you don't fit the book definition of trauma or PTSD, working on what the client views as traumatic events lead to figuring out the direction treatment goes. I find this relevant for beginning any talk on how toxic relationships can lead to complex trauma and finding your voice when it has been taken from you.
Toxic relationships can take many forms. It can come from gaslighting from your partner. gaslighting is a new catchphrase for manipulation that takes the form of making you believe that your viewpoint, opinions, and even how you think are made invalid. This is intended to make you feel like your going crazy and gives power to the other person. When that person is your significant other, it's like living in a world that doesn't make sense to you anymore, and your significant other makes the rules. Toxic relationships can also come from infidelity, codependency, substance abuse, and your significant other having a personality disorder that they are not working on.
Trauma and the Toxic Relationship
The last one that I will mention here is when your significant other has trauma, broken people will sometimes seek out people that are well in hopes that they will either save them or fix them. The reason is varied, but I often hear that "they are the only ones that understand me" and "I don't want to abandon them; they need me."
What Should You Do?
So, what do you do if you find yourself in a toxic relationship and wonder if you have trauma?
The first thing I would say is to reach out for support. The most important thing to start with is family, friends, AL-anon, counseling, and not feeling alone.
Second, don't assume that it will just get better on its own. Trauma changes how the brain functions. The ability to regulate fight, flight and freeze can be compromised and always stays a hair away from being activated. This causes an increase in anxiety and depression. It is determining what boundaries you need to keep safe and work towards being healthy. Can these relationships be saved with time, energy, communication, and help.
At Mind Works Counseling Services in Lubbock TX, we are here to help you learn to live, seek out healthy relationships, and heal from the trauma of unhealthy ones. Our professional team is ready and willing for you and your loved ones to feel the need to take wellness to the next level. Trauma does not have to be fought in isolation.
Learn more about the Trauma Counseling Services we offer.
Contact us to schedule an appointment or to let us answer any questions you may have.