World Trauma Day: 10 Ways Unresolved Trauma Can Affect Your Relationships

Natural disasters, armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, mass shootings, life-threatening diseases, car accidents, industrial accidents, rape, abuse and other incidents that negatively impact our sense of well-being are examples of traumatic experiences. If there is unresolved trauma, it can affect every aspect of your life. In a relationship you may even have emotional distance or communication problems. On World Trauma Day, which falls on October 17, let’s discuss how unresolved trauma can ruin a relationship.

Traumatic experiences are frightening, dangerous or disturbing events that impact our physical, emotional, mental, spiritual or social well-being, explains psychotherapist, life and business coach Dr Chandni Tugnait. Trauma can also cause the body to experience stress, which manifests physically as symptoms such as rapid heart rate, headaches, nausea, digestive problems and poor sleep.

Unresolved trauma can affect your relationship. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Ways unresolved trauma can affect the relationship

When traumatic events that people have faced are not adequately processed, integrated or healed, this is called unresolved trauma. The most common cause of unresolved trauma is trying to ignore or suppress the painful incidents by shoving them into an internal ‘black box’ that only grows bigger over time, the expert says. This process sometimes takes place both consciously and unconsciously. Here are some ways unresolved trauma can affect relationships:

1. Communication failure

Someone dealing with unresolved trauma may withdraw into themselves and no longer communicate effectively with those around them.

2. Emotional distance

Trauma survivors often struggle with emotions, feelings, and sensitivity; as a defense mechanism, they typically develop emotional distance from others.

3. Trust issues

A traumatized person may have trouble trusting others, making it difficult to open up and trust someone, says Dr. Tugnait.

4. Anger problems

Unresolved issues and trauma can sometimes manifest as anger and impatience. Relationship problems can arise from this, as the person may have difficulty regulating emotions.

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5. Attachment problems

Trauma victims often experience attachment problems, which can manifest as one person’s inability to build a relationship or as an overly possessive attachment to one person that disrupts the dynamics of a relationship.

6. Trauma reenactment

Unresolved issues can drive a person to create traumatic patterns in their relationships that constantly remind them of the trauma they experienced. They may encounter people who look like their abusers or find themselves in the same situation.

7. Low self-esteem

Trauma victims often struggle with their self-worth and self-worth. This encourages people to look for recognition in the wrong places.

8. Lack of emotional support

Trauma survivors can find it challenging to provide their spouses with the emotional support they need, adding to the challenges in a relationship that may never end.

9. Insulation

Due to their poor mental health and all the other problems that trauma brings, many trauma survivors avoid social situations. They could withdraw into themselves to deal with their emotional problems, which could ultimately result in loneliness and further mental problems.

Unresolved trauma can affect your relationships
Trauma survivors may find it challenging to be in a committed relationship. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

10. Dissociation

Trauma survivors often distance themselves from reality to deal with their problems, making it challenging for them to be in a committed relationship and fully relate to their partner.

Tips to resolve unresolved trauma

To address the trauma, heal from it, and reduce its impact on your life and relationships, consider the following:

1. Recognize the effects of trauma

Browse books on trauma recovery. Whether or not you remember the facts of the event, discuss your actions with a therapist to see if they can be linked to an early traumatic event.

2. Share your story

Keep a diary (how to keep a diary) where you can write about your recent and old experiences. You can also ask for a close friend or therapist to sit next to you while you describe what happened. By sharing your experiences, you can make connections between what is happening in your life right now and what you carry with you from the past.

3. Emotional mastery

Experience your emotions instead of ignoring them; be aware of them and name them. That means: feel the sadness and feel the anger. Think about where in your body the feeling comes from. Then your feelings can act as informative guides to help you on the path to healing.

4. Take as much time as you need

We are not all created equal, and everyone heals in their own time and in their own way. Slow down the process if it becomes too intense. Take a break and take your own time.

You can also seek the help of a professional, as they know how this affects a person and what needs to be done to resolve trauma.

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