Can PTSD Lead To Love Avoidance?

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The short answer is, absolutely yes. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has a variety of features, including a tendency to pull away from certain situations or relationships. This behavior is actually quite rational. PTSD can cause a person to feel emotionally numb and involve feelings of rejection or abandonment.

Writing for, Annie Tanasugarn, PhD says that “ Because these feelings and experiences can cause more stress, avoiding situations or people who ‘trigger’ vulnerable emotions — from love, to anger, to fear or shame  — is commonly reported. Essentially, avoiding feelings that cause distress can ‘trigger‘ avoidant behavior, which can keep a person suffering from PTSD caught in a self-defeating cycle of: disconnection –> emotional trigger –> avoidant behavior.”

Understanding this cycle is particularly relevant right now. Research is mounting that shows up to 20% of people in critical roles (for example, nurses treating Covid-19 patients, or nursing home residents) are suffering from PTSD. For couples in a relationship, the danger is that PTSD causes love-avoidance. (See “Love Addicts And Avoidants” for more information.)

“Emotional numbing, or avoidant behavior,” says Tanasugarn, “can affect the quality of a person’s life; they may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, there may be increases in interpersonal/relationship problems, and/or a detachment or inability to remain emotionally close to others. Similarly, fight/flight behavior and self-sabotaging behavior (self-medicating, ‘distracted’ behavior, eating disorders, cycling through relationships, promiscuity, or other risky behavior) are reported, which can exacerbate avoidance of intimacy.”

We’re only beginning to understand the human cost of the pandemic and associated societal reactions. Self reflection may be wise in order to repair damaged relationships. See Tanasugarn’s full article here.