I admit to being a deeply flawed and scarred individual. I have shared several links this morning regarding Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to help people better understand what it is like to live inside a PTSD mind and provide some do’s and don’ts on how to deal with and help someone suffering with this mental illness. I have also provided some links on Passive–aggressive behavior to shed some light on how someone exhibiting passive aggressive tendencies could easily escalate the symptoms of someone suffering from PTSD. I hope this information will be helpful to my friends in dealing with me and will also shed some light on the dynamics of interactions with others and why things have spiraled out of control over the past 2 years or so.
I was sure to post more articles about ptsd than passive aggressive behaviors to take more responsibility for being an individual with ptsd than i am laying blame for passive aggressive behaviors that tend to push my ptsd buttons.
Lets look at Post Traumatic Stress Disorder first.
What is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD?
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that some people get after seeing or living through a dangerous event.
When in danger, it’s natural to feel afraid. This fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to prepare to defend against the danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a healthy reaction meant to protect a person from harm. But in PTSD, this reaction is changed or damaged. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they’re no longer in danger.
Who gets PTSD?
Anyone can get PTSD at any age. This includes war veterans and survivors of physical and sexual assault, abuse, accidents, disasters, and many other serious events.
Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Some people get PTSD after a friend or family member experiences danger or is harmed. The sudden, unexpected death of a loved one can also cause PTSD.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
PTSD can cause many symptoms. These symptoms can be grouped into three categories:
1. Re-experiencing symptoms:
Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
Re-experiencing symptoms may cause problems in a person’s everyday routine. They can start from the person’s own thoughts and feelings. Words, objects, or situations that are reminders of the event can also trigger re-experiencing.
2. Avoidance symptoms:
Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience
Feeling emotionally numb
Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry
Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past
Having trouble remembering the dangerous event.
Things that remind a person of the traumatic event can trigger avoidance symptoms. These symptoms may cause a person to change his or her personal routine. For example, after a bad car accident, a person who usually drives may avoid driving or riding in a car.
3. Hyperarousal symptoms:
Being easily startled
Feeling tense or “on edge”
Having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts.
Hyperarousal symptoms are usually constant, instead of being triggered by things that remind one of the traumatic event. They can make the person feel stressed and angry. These symptoms may make it hard to do daily tasks, such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating.
It’s natural to have some of these symptoms after a dangerous event. Sometimes people have very serious symptoms that go away after a few weeks. This is called acute stress disorder, or ASD. When the symptoms last more than a few weeks and become an ongoing problem, they might be PTSD. Some people with PTSD don’t show any symptoms for weeks or months.
Do children react differently than adults?
Children and teens can have extreme reactions to trauma, but their symptoms may not be the same as adults.1 In very young children, these symptoms can include:
Bedwetting, when they’d learned how to use the toilet before
Forgetting how or being unable to talk
Acting out the scary event during playtime
Being unusually clingy with a parent or other adult.
Older children and teens usually show symptoms more like those seen in adults. They may also develop disruptive, disrespectful, or destructive behaviors. Older children and teens may feel guilty for not preventing injury or deaths. They may also have thoughts of revenge. For more information, see the NIMH booklets on helping children cope with violence and disasters.
How is PTSD detected?
A doctor who has experience helping people with mental illnesses, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, can diagnose PTSD. The diagnosis is made after the doctor talks with the person who has symptoms of PTSD.
To be diagnosed with PTSD, a person must have all of the following for at least 1 month:
At least one re-experiencing symptom
At least three avoidance symptoms
At least two hyperarousal symptoms
Symptoms that make it hard to go about daily life, go to school or work, be with friends, and take care of important tasks.
Why do some people get PTSD and other people do not?
It is important to remember that not everyone who lives through a dangerous event gets PTSD. In fact, most will not get the disorder.
Many factors play a part in whether a person will get PTSD. Some of these are risk factors that make a person more likely to get PTSD. Other factors, called resilience factors, can help reduce the risk of the disorder. Some of these risk and resilience factors are present before the trauma and others become important during and after a traumatic event.
Risk factors for PTSD include: 2
Living through dangerous events and traumas
Having a history of mental illness
Seeing people hurt or killed
Feeling horror, helplessness, or extreme fear
Having little or no social support after the event
Dealing with extra stress after the event, such as loss of a loved one, pain and injury, or loss of a job or home.
Resilience factors that may reduce the risk of PTSD include: 3
Seeking out support from other people, such as friends and family
Finding a support group after a traumatic event
Feeling good about one’s own actions in the face of danger
Having a coping strategy, or a way of getting through the bad event and learning from it
Being able to act and respond effectively despite feeling fear.
Researchers are studying the importance of various risk and resilience factors. With more study, it may be possible someday to predict who is likely to get PTSD and prevent it.
How is PTSD treated?
The main treatments for people with PTSD are psychotherapy (“talk” therapy), medications, or both. Everyone is different, so a treatment that works for one person may not work for another. It is important for anyone with PTSD to be treated by a mental health care provider who is experienced with PTSD. Some people with PTSD need to try different treatments to find what works for their symptoms.
If someone with PTSD is going through an ongoing trauma, such as being in an abusive relationship, both of the problems need to be treated. Other ongoing problems can include panic disorder, depression, substance abuse, and feeling suicidal.
Psychotherapy is “talk” therapy. It involves talking with a mental health professional to treat a mental illness. Psychotherapy can occur one-on-one or in a group. Talk therapy treatment for PTSD usually lasts 6 to 12 weeks, but can take more time. Research shows that support from family and friends can be an important part of therapy.
Many types of psychotherapy can help people with PTSD. Some types target the symptoms of PTSD directly. Other therapies focus on social, family, or job-related problems. The doctor or therapist may combine different therapies depending on each person’s needs.
One helpful therapy is called cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. There are several parts to CBT, including:
Exposure therapy. This therapy helps people face and control their fear. It exposes them to the trauma they experienced in a safe way. It uses mental imagery, writing, or visits to the place where the event happened. The therapist uses these tools to help people with PTSD cope with their feelings.
Cognitive restructuring. This therapy helps people make sense of the bad memories. Sometimes people remember the event differently than how it happened. They may feel guilt or shame about what is not their fault. The therapist helps people with PTSD look at what happened in a realistic way.
Stress inoculation training. This therapy tries to reduce PTSD symptoms by teaching a person how to reduce anxiety. Like cognitive restructuring, this treatment helps people look at their memories in a healthy way.
Other types of treatment can also help people with PTSD. People with PTSD should talk about all treatment options with their therapist.
How Talk Therapies Help People Overcome PTSD
Talk therapies teach people helpful ways to react to frightening events that trigger their PTSD symptoms. Based on this general goal, different types of therapy may:
Teach about trauma and its effects.
Use relaxation and anger control skills.
Provide tips for better sleep, diet, and exercise habits.
Help people identify and deal with guilt, shame, and other feelings about the event.
Focus on changing how people react to their PTSD symptoms. For example, therapy helps people visit places and people that are reminders of the trauma.
What efforts are under way to improve the detection and treatment of PTSD?
Researchers have learned a lot in the last decade about fear, stress, and PTSD. Scientists are also learning about how people form memories. This is important because creating very powerful fear-related memories seems to be a major part of PTSD. Researchers are also exploring how people can create “safety” memories to replace the bad memories that form after a trauma. NIMH’s goal in supporting this research is to improve treatment and find ways to prevent the disorder.
PTSD research also includes the following examples:
Using powerful new research methods, such as brain imaging and the study of genes, to find out more about what leads to PTSD, when it happens, and who is most at risk.
Trying to understand why some people get PTSD and others do not. Knowing this can help health care professionals predict who might get PTSD and provide early treatment.
Focusing on ways to examine pre-trauma, trauma, and post-trauma risk and resilience factors all at once.
Looking for treatments that reduce the impact traumatic memories have on our emotions.
Improving the way people are screened for PTSD, given early treatment, and tracked after a mass trauma.
Developing new approaches in self-testing and screening to help people know when it’s time to call a doctor.
Testing ways to help family doctors detect and treat PTSD or refer people with PTSD to mental health specialists.
For more information on PTSD research, please see NIMH’s PTSD Research online Fact Sheet or the PTSD Clinical Trials Web site.
How can I help a friend or relative who has PTSD?
If you know someone who has PTSD, it affects you too. The first and most important thing you can do to help a friend or relative is to help him or her get the right diagnosis and treatment. You may need to make an appointment for your friend or relative and go with him or her to see the doctor. Encourage him or her to stay in treatment, or to seek different treatment if his or her symptoms don’t get better after 6 to 8 weeks.
To help a friend or relative, you can:
Offer emotional support, understanding, patience, and encouragement.
Learn about PTSD so you can understand what your friend or relative is experiencing.
Talk to your friend or relative, and listen carefully.
Listen to feelings your friend or relative expresses and be understanding of situations that may trigger PTSD symptoms.
Invite your friend or relative out for positive distractions such as walks, outings, and other activities.
Remind your friend or relative that, with time and treatment, he or she can get better.
Never ignore comments about your friend or relative harming him or herself, and report such comments to your friend’s or relative’s therapist or doctor.
How can I help myself?
It may be very hard to take that first step to help yourself. It is important to realize that although it may take some time, with treatment, you can get better.
To help yourself:
Talk to your doctor about treatment options.
Engage in mild activity or exercise to help reduce stress.
Set realistic goals for yourself.
Break up large tasks into small ones, set some priorities, and do what you can as you can.
Try to spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or relative. Tell others about things that may trigger symptoms.
Expect your symptoms to improve gradually, not immediately.
Identify and seek out comforting situations, places, and people.
Helping Someone with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
It can be hard to handle having a close friend or family member with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They may struggle with irritability, have problems sleeping at night, be unable to focus, feel depressed or act anxious most of the time. In fact, for some people the symptoms can be so severe that treatment at a certified post traumatic stress disorder treatment center may be necessary. PTSD treatment facilities have been shown to be very beneficial to the health and overall well-being of those with this disorder.
How can you deal with this situation? The following steps can serve as helpful tips for dealing with and loving someone with PTSD.
Learn everything you can about PTSD. By knowing all of this information, you will be better able to handle the situation.
Exercise together. Exercising strengthens the overall body and improves health.
Don’t judge them.
Be there to listen. Make your self available to them when they need to talk. Be an active listener by giving input when needed.
Show respect. Respect them even though they may be having a difficult time at the moment.
Look out for them. Show you care by recognizing when everything doesn’t seem to be okay.
Allow room for mistakes. Recognize that they will make mistakes, but always be there to forgive them and offer help if needed.
Give them their space. Your loved one may not always want your opinion on everything, be willing to step aside every once in a while and give them some space.
Be active together. Planning and participating in family activities can be a fun way to interact and show them you don’t look down on them.
Don’t belittle them. While it is important to not expect too much, not expecting anything at all is unnecessary and can be hurtful.
Avoid harsh remarks. Stay away from telling your friend or family member to get over their problems, this may only make problems worse.
Encourage their self-esteem.
Take care of yourself. Remember that you can’t take care of someone else if you haven’t dealt with yourself first. In many cases seeking out a friend to help you is beneficial.
In serious situations, it may be helpful to seek out the advice and assistance of a medical professional. In addition, post traumatic stress disorder treatment centers are available for anyone suffering from this disorder. A problem like PTSD can escalate quickly. If help is not sought out soon enough the problem may become increasingly worse to the point where full recovery may never be possible.
Helping a Family Member Who Has PTSD
When someone has PTSD, it can change family life. The person with PTSD may act differently and get angry easily. He or she may not want to do things you used to enjoy together.
You may feel scared and frustrated about the changes you see in your loved one. You also may feel angry about what’s happening to your family, or wonder if things will ever go back to the way they were. These feelings and worries are common in people who have a family member with PTSD.
It is important to learn about PTSD so you can understand why it happened, how it is treated, and what you can do to help. But you also need to take care of yourself. Changes in family life are stressful, and taking care of yourself will make it easier to cope.
How can I help?
You may feel helpless, but there are many things you can do. Nobody expects you to have all the answers.
Here are ways you can help:
Learn as much as you can about PTSD. Knowing how PTSD affects people may help you understand what your family member is going through. The more you know, the better you and your family can handle PTSD.
Offer to go to doctor visits with your family member. You can help keep track of medicine and therapy, and you can be there for support.
Tell your loved one you want to listen and that you also understand if he or she doesn’t feel like talking.
Plan family activities together, like having dinner or going to a movie.
Take a walk, go for a bike ride, or do some other physical activity together. Exercise is important for health and helps clear your mind.
Encourage contact with family and close friends. A support system will help your family member get through difficult changes and stressful times.
Your family member may not want your help. If this happens, keep in mind that withdrawal can be a symptom of PTSD. A person who withdraws may not feel like talking, taking part in group activities, or being around other people. Give your loved one space, but tell him or her that you will always be ready to help.
How can I deal with anger or violent behavior?
Your family member may feel angry about many things. Anger is a normal reaction to trauma, but it can hurt relationships and make it hard to think clearly. Anger also can be frightening.
If anger leads to violent behavior or abuse, it’s dangerous. Go to a safe place and call for help right away. Make sure children are in a safe place as well.
It’s hard to talk to someone who is angry. One thing you can do is set up a time-out system. This helps you find a way to talk even while angry. Here’s one way to do this.
Agree that either of you can call a time-out at any time.
Agree that when someone calls a time-out, the discussion must stop right then.
Decide on a signal you will use to call a time-out. The signal can be a word that you say or a hand signal.
Agree to tell each other where you will be and what you will be doing during the time-out. Tell each other what time you will come back.
While you are taking a time-out, don’t focus on how angry you feel. Instead, think calmly about how you will talk things over and solve the problem.
After you come back
Take turns talking about solutions to the problem. Listen without interrupting.
Use statements starting with “I,” such as “I think” or “I feel.” Using “you” statements can sound accusing.
Be open to each other’s ideas. Don’t criticize each other.
Focus on things you both think will work. It’s likely you will both have good ideas.
Together, agree which solutions you will use.
How can I communicate better?
You and your family may have trouble talking about feelings, worries, and everyday problems. Here are some ways to communicate better:
Be clear and to the point.
Be positive. Blame and negative talk won’t help the situation.
Be a good listener. Don’t argue or interrupt. Repeat what you hear to make sure you understand, and ask questions if you need to know more.
Put your feelings into words. Your loved one may not know you are sad or frustrated unless you are clear about your feelings.
Help your family member put feelings into words. Ask, “Are you feeling angry? Sad? Worried?”
Ask how you can help.
Don’t give advice unless you are asked.
If your family is having a lot of trouble talking things over, consider trying family therapy. Family therapy is a type of counseling that involves your whole family. A therapist helps you and your family communicate, maintain good relationships, and cope with tough emotions.
During therapy, each person can talk about how a problem is affecting the family. Family therapy can help family members understand and cope with PTSD.
Your health professional or a religious or social services organization can help you find a family therapist who specializes in PTSD.
How can I take care of myself?
Helping a person with PTSD can be hard on you. You may have your own feelings of fear and anger about the trauma. You may feel guilty because you wish your family member would just forget his or her problems and get on with life. You may feel confused or frustrated because your loved one has changed, and you may worry that your family life will never get back to normal.
All of this can drain you. It can affect your health and make it hard for you to help your loved one. If you’re not careful, you may get sick yourself, become depressed, or burn out and stop helping your loved one.
To help yourself, you need to take care of yourself and have other people help you.
Care for yourself
Don’t feel guilty or feel that you have to know it all. Remind yourself that nobody has all the answers. It’s normal to feel helpless at times.
Don’t feel bad if things change slowly. You cannot change anyone. People have to change themselves.
Take care of your physical and mental health. If you feel yourself getting sick or often feel sad and hopeless, see your doctor.
Don’t give up your outside life. Make time for activities and hobbies you enjoy. Continue to see your friends.
Take time to be by yourself. Find a quiet place to gather your thoughts and “recharge.”
Get regular exercise, even just a few minutes a day. Exercise is a healthy way to deal with stress.
Eat healthy foods. When you are busy, it may seem easier to eat fast food than to prepare healthy meals. But healthy foods will give you more energy to carry you through the day.
Remember the good things. It’s easy to get weighed down by worry and stress. But don’t forget to see and celebrate the good things that happen to you and your family.
During difficult times, it is important to have people in your life who you can depend on. These people are your support network. They can help you with everyday jobs, like taking a child to school, or by giving you love and understanding.
You may get support from:
Friends, coworkers, and neighbors
Members of your religious or spiritual group
Doctors and other health professionals
Imagine this: you’re allergic to cats. You’ve just been exposed to cat dander and your eyes are a soggy, drippy red mess. You sneeze uncontrollably multiple times in a row. Your skin becomes itchy, red, and full of welts. You’re feeling pretty miserable.
A friend walks up to you.
“Hey, no worries,” he exclaims casually, “there’s nothing to be allergic to!”
“Sure there is — I’m allergic to cats,” you’d probably say.
“Nah,” says your friend, “just stop sneezing. You’ll be okay.”
“What?! I can’t just STOP sneezing on a dime,” you retort.
“Sure you can. There’s nothing wrong with you,” he insists.
“Uhm, care to explain these welts, then? And the red eyes? And the sneezing?!”
Sounds frustrating, doesn’t it? If you suffer from allergies, you know that a reaction to an allergen can produce a truly miserable day. And while panic disorder is no allergy, it produces its own unique brand of misery, too.
And that misery can be compounded by how others react to a panic attack. Hopefully, no one would ever tell an allergy sufferer to “just stop sneezing” or to “make those welts go away.” It would be ineffective and frustrating advice.
However, as a panic sufferer myself, I’ve received a lot of ineffective and frustrating advice over the past few years. Most of it is delivered sincerely, with the absolute best of intentions, from people whom I care about. So, it often hurts to let these people know that their advice isn’t helping (and perhaps is even making the panic attack worse!). It’s not easy. If you haven’t yet developed a thick enough skin to ignore the below advice (I sure haven’t!), please share the below tips with family and friends who care about you.
This post was inspired by this list of things you shouldn’t say to someone who is depressed.
You say: “Just calm down.”
We want to say: “Okay, HOW!?”
Let’s pick this one apart piece by piece. “Just” implies that the act of calming down is a simple one. It’s not. For someone in the midst of panic, calming down can be an extraordinarily difficult task. For you, it might be effortless; for those of us with panic disorder, it might involve medication, breathing exercises, distraction, rituals, positive self-talk and reassurance, and/or time.
The “calm down” part is also problematic in and of itself. If you don’t have any tools, you can’t build a house, right? Unless you can construct some tools from thin air, you’re out of luck. Likewise, if we don’t have any tools or techniques (like the breathing exercises mentioned above) that can help us to become calmer, we can’t “build” anything. We can’t construct a ladder that will allow us to climb our way out of a panic attack. And, the added stress of being unable to comply with a “calm down” request might compound our anxiety.
Better response: Can I help you calm down? Is there anything I can do?
You say: “Why can’t you just relax?”
We want to say: “It’s a bit more complicated than you think!”
During a panic attack, the following physiological changes can occur:
* increased heart rate
* adrenaline rushes
* shortness of breath
* heart palpitations
* numbing or tingling in hands/feet
It’s like trying to relax while you’re being chased by a wild animal. Or while you’re frantically trying to find your way out of a burning building. Put simply, our panic-filled bodies aren’t capable of turning off the fight-or-flight impulse on cue. We’re not equipped with a switch. Even a steadfast resolve to relax will probably only incite further frustration over the fact that our body is going haywire.
True story: during my very first biofeedback session, the practitioner hooked me up to a computer that measures anxiety via skin conductance (read: sweat), hand temperature, heart rate, and breathing rate. As soon as she said, “Okay, now try to relax!”, my anxiety level (as measured objectively by a computer) surged upward. This is common!
Better response: I’m here for you. What can I do to help you relax?
You say: “There’s nothing wrong with you.”
We want to say: “Oh yeah? Then why does it feel like I’m going to have a (insert-severe medical-condition-here)?”
Classic line, often delivered by well-intentioned close friends, family, and significant others. Sometimes, this sentiment could be helpful — but only if we’re fretting over the “Is this just panic, or is it a heart attack or a stroke!?” question. Otherwise, it’s usually an unhelpful phrase that makes us want to yell, “Yes! There IS something wrong with me at the moment! I’m panicking, and it’s terrifyingly uncomfortable! THAT is what’s wrong!”
Better response: This must be uncomfortable. Can I do anything to make it better?
You say: “Sit down.”
We want to say: “But sitting down makes me more anxious!”
Usually, sitting down is a relaxing activity. We sit down to eat, to watch television, and to read a good book — and all of those events are generally agreeable and soothing. However, merely assuming a seated position isn’t going to act as a panacea.
The panic response sends a rush of adrenaline into our bloodstream that compels us to either fight or flee. It makes us feel like we need to be hypervigilant in order to ensure our survival. If you were really being chased by a wild animal, for example, sitting down would do you no good. That’s why the impulse to stand upright and stay alert is so strong. Leave this one up to the panicker: if we feel more comfortable sitting down, help us to find a safe spot. If we need to pace or go for a walk in order to calm down, let us.
You say: “You’re overreacting!”
We want to say: “Thanks, Captain Obvious.”
While it may be true that our body and mind are in overdrive, we often feel like we cannot control these reactions. In the midst of a rapid heartbeat, a cascading series of negative thoughts, and an intense urge to escape, having someone inform us that we’re overreacting is not helpful. We’re often aware that our body and mind are overreacting, but we may not yet possess the skills to disengage our frantic nervous system.
Better response: If you want, I’ll wait here with you until this passes.
Even though the above statements aren’t helpful to hear during a panic attack, some might be more appropriate after the threat of imminent panic has passed. If you know someone with panic disorder and want to be a great support person for them, check out this guide.
If you’ve ever had a panic attack, what’s the most unhelpful thing you’ve heard from someone who is trying to help? Share your thoughts in the comments or find me on Twitter @summerberetsky.
Stay tuned for the second half of this list — based on your comments — later in the week.
PTSD: 5 Rules to Help a Friend
by Suzanne Grosser
Someone you love has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD sufferers need help. You want to help them. I warn you, it won’t be easy. If you care enough about them to read this page, they are lucky to have you. But don’t expect them to realize that for a long time.
Rule #1: Do not take her behavior personally.
This is not about you. It is about her fear. It is about her anxiety. It is about her pain. This is her post traumatic stress. It is not about you. Understanding this does not make the problems (or obnoxious behaviors) go away. But it can keep your feelings and your relationship from being hurt unnecessarily by PTSD.
Post traumatic stress disorder is an illness. Once you accept this, you can treat PTSD like any other disease. If she had the flu, you wouldn’t expect her to be all cheerful and chatty. You would bring her a box of tissues and some orange juice. You’d keep her company if that’s what she wanted. You’d let her rest, if she wanted to be alone. Either way, you would not take it personally.
You would encourage your friend to get treatment. She needs it, but she may resist it.
Rule #2: Set boundaries
Do not under any circumstances tolerate unacceptable behavior.
Do not tolerate abuse of any kind. You are not a punching bag or a target for degrading insults. You do not deserve that and you will not help your friend that way either. If he hits you, leave. If you stay, you will only endanger yourself and you will give him one more thing to hate himself for, later. Don’t do it.
Do not do everything for him. I can not tell you where the line between helping a friend and being co-dependent is – but your gut will tell you. Give as much as feels right to you. Do not accept the guilt trip you will be handed when you refuse to give everything. Do not feel guilty for having a life outside of his problems. Someday he will join you there. But he’s not ready yet.
Rule #3: Do not expect much in return.
Right now, he doesn’t have much to offer. He’s struggling to get through the day without losing his temper, or drinking too much. He’s doing good if he can get to his doctor appointments and take his medications properly.
You will need your own support network, because he’s got all he can handle to take care of himself. PTSD is taking all his energy to cope with. You will be putting more into this relationship than you will get back out, at least for awhile. He may occasionally acknowledge some of what you do for him. Accept that as the precious gift that it is. It is a sign of his healing. Right now, it is all he has to give.
Rule #4: Do not judge.
She needs to talk abut it. It sucks to hear about it. Try to remember that living through it was worse. Now, because of PTSD, she is going over and over it in her mind. Reliving the horror everyday. This is what is making her sick. This is the poison that is eating away at her. Telling someone is like washing out a infected cut. It stings, it burns, it grosses out people, but it is the only way to get rid of the poison.
Her greatest need is to tell what happened. Her greatest fear is that if she tells, she will lose your love. You probably won’t understand what it was like and she may have done things you both know are wrong. She is afraid of being judged. She has already lost a big part of herself to this trauma. She can’t stand to lose you, too. And if she tells, maybe she will.
It will take a great deal of courage for her to talk about her trauma. So please listen, and don’t judge her. She is still the person you used to know. But she has been hurt, big time, and she is trying to piece her life back together. In time, she will see her actions clearly and make amends if necessary. But right now, she needs to tell someone and not be rejected for the telling. Here are some tips to help you listen to her story.
Rule #5: Have fun.
This is absolutely impossible when you are dealing with PTSD – and absolutely essential. You’ll just have to figure it out. He won’t want to, but maybe he will do it to humor you. He would rather wallow in his pain, but you’re not going to allow that. He is stuck and you can intend to help him get unstuck.
Watch a silly movie together. Gather some friends and play board games. Practice blowing soap bubbles. Buy one of those giant soap bubble rings and see if you can get it to work. Go for a walk and jump into, not over, the puddles. Eat watermelon, and have a seed spitting contest. If it’s the wrong time of year for watermelon, build a snowman instead.
Remind him of good times before his trauma and PTSD – look at your high school yearbook or old family pictures. Laugh together. Laughter is healing. So is your love.
Relationships and PTSD
How does trauma affect relationships?
Trauma survivors with PTSD may have trouble with their close family relationships or friendships. The symptoms of PTSD can cause problems with trust, closeness, communication, and problem solving. These problems may affect the way the survivor acts with others. In turn, the way a loved one responds to him or her affects the trauma survivor. A circular pattern can develop that may sometimes harm relationships.
How might trauma survivors react?
In the first weeks and months following a trauma, survivors may feel angry, detached, tense or worried in their relationships. In time, most are able to resume their prior level of closeness in relationships. Yet the 5% to 10% of survivors who develop PTSD may have lasting relationship problems.
Survivors with PTSD may feel distant from others and feel numb. They may have less interest in social or sexual activities. Because survivors feel irritable, on guard, jumpy, worried, or nervous, they may not be able to relax or be intimate. They may also feel an increased need to protect their loved ones. They may come across as tense or demanding.
The trauma survivor may often have trauma memories or flashbacks. He or she might go to great lengths to avoid such memories. Survivors may avoid any activity that could trigger a memory. If the survivor has trouble sleeping or has nightmares, both the survivor and partner may not be able to get enough rest. This may make sleeping together harder.
Survivors often struggle with intense anger and impulses. In order to suppress angry feelings and actions, they may avoid closeness. They may push away or find fault with loved ones and friends. Also, drinking and drug problems, which can be an attempt to cope with PTSD, can destroy intimacy and friendships. Verbal or physical violence can occur.
In other cases, survivors may depend too much on their partners, family members, and friends. This could also include support persons such as health care providers or therapists.
Dealing with these symptoms can take up a lot of the survivor’s attention. He or she may not be able to focus on the partner. It may be hard to listen carefully and make decisions together with someone else. Partners may come to feel that talking together and working as a team are not possible.
How might loved ones react?
Partners, friends, or family members may feel hurt, cut off, or down because the survivor has not been able to get over the trauma. Loved ones may become angry or distant toward the survivor. They may feel pressured, tense, and controlled. The survivor’s symptoms can make a loved one feel like he or she is living in a war zone or in constant threat of danger. Living with someone who has PTSD can sometimes lead the partner to have some of the same feelings of having been through trauma.
In sum, a person who goes through a trauma may have certain common reactions. These reactions affect the people around the survivor. Family, friends, and others then react to how the survivor is behaving. This in turn comes back to affect the person who went through the trauma.
Trauma types and relationships
Certain types of “man-made” traumas can have a more severe effect on relationships. These traumas include:
Childhood sexual and physical abuse
Prisoner of war
Survivors of man-made traumas often feel a lasting sense of terror, horror, endangerment, and betrayal. These feelings affect how they relate to others. They may feel like they are letting down their guard if they get close to someone else and trust them. This is not to say a survivor never feels a strong bond of love or friendship. However, a close relationship can also feel scary or dangerous to a trauma survivor.
Do all trauma survivors have relationship problems?
Many trauma survivors do not develop PTSD. Also, many people with PTSD do not have relationship problems. People with PTSD can create and maintain good relationships by:
Building a personal support network to help cope with PTSD while working on family and friend relationships
Sharing feelings honestly and openly, with respect and compassion
Building skills at problem solving and connecting with others
Including ways to play, be creative, relax, and enjoy others
What can be done to help someone who has PTSD?
Relations with others are very important for trauma survivors. Social support is one of the best things to protect against getting PTSD. Relationships can offset feelings of being alone. Relationships may also help the survivor’s self-esteem. This may help reduce depression and guilt. A relationship can also give the survivor a way to help someone else. Helping others can reduce feelings of failure or feeling cut off from others. Lastly, relationships are a source of support when coping with stress.
If you need to seek professional help, try to find a therapist who has skills in treating PTSD as well as working with couples or families. For resources, please see our Where to Get Help for PTSD page.
Many treatment approaches may be helpful for dealing with relationship issues. Options include:
One-to-one and group therapy
Anger and stress management
Family education classes
The weakest among us has a gift, however seemingly trivial, which is peculiar to him, and which worthily used, will be a gift also to hus race.
Never scoff at another’s weakness or try to cover your own. Instead, encourage others and hold your weakness up to the world where it is in the open and can be healed.
Now let’s take a look at the Passive Aggressive personality. I’m sure once you read how the passive aggressive personality operates, you can see why it would be an exceedingly unhealthy situation for a P.T.S.D sufferer to try to live in close quarters with someone who has passive aggressive tendencies.
Relationships: Passive-Aggressive Men, Who Are They Hurting?
He Hurts Everyone in His Path, Including Himself
Their the men who seem so nice, and trustworthy. They don’t hurt you out in the open, but in a very subtle way, you may not even be aware of. Just the same, they can hurt the people they say they care about the most.
A passive-aggressive man usually grows up in a household which may have a parent who is either passive-aggressive, or overbearing and controlling. If he really has bad luck, he may grow up with both. Many marriages consist of individuals who are opposites, or fill an area for the other person they may be lacking in. It’s an unspoken deal so to speak, you be the passive one, and I’ll be the overbearing one. As the boys are growing up, somewhere along the way they choose to either identify with one parent or the other. If they see the overbearing and controlling parent as scary, they may come to believe they do not want to be like that parent, and go the other way. If they see the passive parent as weak and wimpy, they may choose to be like the overbearing and controlling parent. What I’m going to write about is the passive-aggressive man. When the boy decides to be weak, unassuming, and afraid to stand up for himself. Ergo, he asserts himself in passive aggressive ways. This ends up hurting allot of the people he truly cares for.
The passive aggressive man is very often seen as the nice guy that would do anything for anybody. He never says “NO”, at least not out loud, to any request anyone makes of him. He is often everybody’s token doormat. What most people don’t know is there’s a volcano ready to erupt inside this man. He is too afraid to speak up and tell you what he thinks. Therefore, he goes about his life sneaking around doing things he doesn’t want anybody to know about., getting back at people in ways that have nothing much to do with why he’s really mad, and not standing up to the person, or persons, he needs too. He then ends up hurting those he cares about, and puts them in the line of fire.
Often times when he gets into a relationship, or married, he ends up choosing very strong, overbearing, controlling women. Remember, what I said, people often pick the opposite of themselves, and then it gets them off the hook for ever having to learn how to be strong, and assertive themselves. This is where the problem begins. Because he has chosen to be with this Witch on Wheels, he can never directly confront her with ANYHING. He is too scared. This ends up effecting friends, other family members, and anyone involved with this type of man. You can be this man’s very best friend and if Mrs. Wonderful objects, you’re a goner. Oh, he will keep you as a friend, probably, but it will most definitely be behind his partners back. You will be stuck in drama world, with a half-assed friendship. You can never call him at home when you need to, he hides your e-mails, and you cannot spend anytime with your so-called friend, unless you’re very, very careful. You will always be walking on eggshells. It’s almost like your having an affair with him, without the benefits. This ends up hurting his friends, because his friendships are dictated by her. This is the so-called passive part of his problem
The aggressive part of this disorder ends up not only hurting him, but the woman he is with. No matter how mad he gets at her, he is NOT going to stand up for himself, or tell her how he feels. He is too scared to say a word. What this man will do, is while being the all-loving nice guy and doing the housecleaning, his woman’s favorite figurine might just accidentally get broken. He will sneak behind her back, to see other women, friends, and to do things he especially knows would make her angry. It’s the only way he knows how to stand up for himself. You can imagine how damaging to a relationship this can be. It can go so far, their relationship ends forever. Unfortunately, because he does all these things in private, it may be along time, if ever, when she figures it out. She really does believe he will always be the nice doormat she fell in love with. This definitely works to his benefit.
Last but not least, this seriously hurts the man who is passive-aggressive, more than anyone else. He never learns to assert himself, and never develops the self-esteem to say, “this is who I am”, out loud. Although he feels some momentary exhilaration when getting back at someone, he also feels deep shame, that he is not being a real man. He can suffer with depression at times, wondering who he is, and will anyone ever really know him. He is stuck in limbo. He’s afraid to be who he wants to be for fear of losing the woman he loves. At the same time, he’s not even sure why he loves her anyway. After all, isn’t she just there to make up for his inability to do for himself? That may just be the case.
Although most of the time the passive- aggressive man appears to be a quiet, nice, helpful, boy scout kind of guy, he truly is a very hurtful person. He hurts his friends, his partner, his family, and anyone else on his, quietly, secret, destructive path. This is a very serious disorder, and any chance of change, will have to come with allot of counseling, and allot of work on his part. However change is very hard. The longer this man has been this way, the longer it will take to recover. There is also the possibility he may not want to change. Like good old Dr. Phil says, people do what they do because there is some kind of payoff they’re getting out of that particular behavior. Whatever his choice, to change, or not to change, this can be one of the most difficult type of men to live with. That’s if you ever really know in the first place!
10 Common Passive Aggressive Phrases to Avoid
Have you heard (or spoken!) any of these phrases lately?
Is there someone in your life who consistently makes you feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster? Do you know a person who is friendly one day but sulks and withdraws the next? Does a family member or friend consistently procrastinate, postpone, stall, and shut down any emotionally-laden conversations? Are you sometimes that person? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, chances are you may be interacting with a passive aggressive person or showing signs of passive-aggressive behavior yourself.
In The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools, and Workplaces, 2nd ed., passive aggression is defined as a deliberate and masked way of expressing covert feelings of anger (Long, Long & Whitson, 2008). It involves a range of behaviors designed to get back at another person without him recognizing the underlying anger. These ten common passive aggressive phrases can serve as an early-warning system for you, helping you recognize hidden hostility when it is being directed your way:
1. “I’m Not Mad.”
Denying feelings of anger is classic passive aggressive behavior. Rather than being upfront and honest when questioned about his feelings, the passive aggressive person insists, “I’m not mad” even when he is seething on the inside.
2. “Fine.” “Whatever.”
Sulking and withdrawing from arguments are primary strategies of the passive aggressive person. Since passive aggression is motivated by a person’s belief that expressing anger directly will only make his life worse (Long, Long & Whitson, 2008), the passive aggressive person uses phrases like “Fine” and “Whatever” to express anger indirectly and to shut down direct, emotionally honest communication.
3. “I’m Coming!”
Passive aggressive persons are known for verbally complying with a request, but behaviorally delaying its completion. If whenever you ask your child to clean his room, he cheerfully says, “Okay, I’m coming,” but then fails to show up to complete the chore, chances are he is practicing the fine passive aggressive art of temporary compliance.
4. “I Didn’t Know You Meant Now.”
On a related note, passive aggressive persons are master procrastinators. While all of us like to put off unpleasant tasks from time to time, people with passive aggressive personalities rely on procrastination as a way of frustrating others and/or getting out of certain chores without having to directly refuse them.
5. “You Just Want Everything to be Perfect.”
When procrastination is not an option, a more sophisticated passive aggressive strategy is to carry out tasks in a timely, but unacceptable manner. For example:
A student hands in sloppy homework
A husband prepares a well-done steak for his wife, though he knows she prefers to eat steak rare
An employee dramatically overspends his budget on an important project
In all of these instances, the passive aggressive person complies with a particular request, but carries it out in an intentionally inefficient way. When confronted, he defends his work, counter-accusing others of having rigid or perfectionist standards.
6. “I Thought You Knew.”
Sometimes, the perfect passive aggressive crime has to do with omission. Passive aggressive persons may express their anger covertly by choosing not to share information when it could prevent a problem. By claiming ignorance, the person defends his inaction, while taking pleasure in his foe’s trouble and anguish.
7. “Sure, I’d be Happy To.”
Have you ever been in a customer service situation where a seemingly concerned clerk or super-polite phone operator assures you that your problem will be solved. On the surface, the representative is cooperative, but beware of his angry smile; behind the scenes, he is filing your request in the trash and stamping your paperwork with “DENY.”
8. “You’ve Done so Well for Someone with Your Education Level.”
The backhanded compliment is the ultimate socially acceptable means by which the passive aggressive person insults you to your core. If anyone has ever told you, “Don’t worry-you can still get braces even at your age” or “There are a lot of men out there who like plump women,” chances are you know how much “joy” a passive aggressive compliment can bring.
9. “I Was Only Joking”
Like backhanded compliments, sarcasm is a common tool of a passive aggressive person who expresses his hostility aloud, but in socially acceptable, indirect ways. If you show that you are offended by biting, passive aggressive sarcasm, the hostile joke teller plays up his role as victim, asking, “Can’t you take a joke?”
10. “Why Are You Getting So Upset?”
The passive aggressive person is a master at maintaining his calm and feigning shock when others, worn down by his indirect hostility, blow up in anger. In fact, he takes pleasure out of setting others up to lose their cool and then questioning their “overreactions.”
The Passive Aggressive Man: He’s All About Control
Who is the passive aggressive man? Identify him and run for the hills.
If you’ve been in a relationship with him, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t be on the look-out because chances are you will cross paths with a passive aggressive man.
Who is the passive aggressive man? He is that guy who avoids responsibility and conflict through passivity and withdrawal. He is the “Nice Guy” who reels you in with his adoration and once you are in the game he turns the tables so quickly your head will swim until you decide to take a hike. Do You See His Potential or Who He REALLY Is?
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The Passive Aggressive Man…
1. Withholds to Punish: He says one thing but means another. Sure, he wants to go to a movie. He even appears to enjoy himself until later that night when he rejects you sexually. You see, he didn’t want to go to a movie but, his passivity would not allow him to own it. His fear of conflict means punishing you in covert ways for something you “made” him do. What better way to punish than withhold something he knows you want?
2. Fears Conflict: He will do anything to keep from arguing with you. He has been taught that anger is unacceptable. Well, expressing anger in an open, honest way is unacceptable and not something you will get from this guy. What you will get is a relationship with a man who avoids solving relationship problems, avoids taking responsibility for problems in the relationship and most importantly avoids making an intimate connection with you.
3. Plays The Victim: This poor guy can’t win for losing, in his mind anyway. He will not show for a dinner date but find it unreasonable that you are upset. It is after, all his bosses fault for making him work late. He could have picked his cell phone up and called but calling isn’t nearly as pleasurable as letting you sit and wait. You waiting on him gets his angries out at you. He gets to punish you and blame his boss…he is off the hook, a “good guy” who is the victim of an unreasonable woman who expects too much from him.
4. Is Forgetful: He forgets birthdays, anniversaries, anything important to you will be forgotten by him. My ex used to forget he needed something from me until the last minute. If there was a social event related to his work, I would get notice the day before. I spent a lot of time running around trying to prepare from something in a few hours that would normally take days.
5. Is Afraid of You: They want you but they don’t want to become attached to you! He is in a constant battle with himself to pursue then distance himself. According to Scott Wetlzer, author of Living With The Passive Aggressive Man. The passive aggressive man is “unsure of his autonomy and afraid of being alone, he fights his dependency needs, usually by trying to control you. He wants you to think he doesn’t depend on you, but he binds himself closer than he cares to admit. Relationships can become battle grounds, where he can only claim victory if he denies his need for your support.”
You have a lot of anger toward the passive aggressive man you are involved with. You just can’t figure out exactly what you are angry about. He is sweet, kind and loving. He never argues, does exactly what you wish. There must be something wrong with you or such a good man would want to have sex with you, remember your birthday, put effort into solving the problems in the relationship or just show up on time every once in a while. How Do You Manage Red Brain Anger?
And that is the trap women who are involved with passive aggressive men fall into, they become responsible for all that is wrong in the relationship. He keeps you hanging in by doing for you when he doesn’t want to, by never arguing, by being such a nice guy. All those puzzling behaviors that send the opposite message than the other negative behaviors send.
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That is why they call it “crazy making” behavior. The passive aggressive man is very good at appearing to be calm, cool and collected while you are going off the deep end. It isn’t his intent to frustrate, offend or cause you to feel guilty. He truly does only want to help.
The only issue, the kind of help he has to offer comes with a price. He has expectations he is unable to openly express and when you don’t meet those expectations you get resentment and covert punishment in return. And, you should never expect your expectations to be met, not even when you’ve expressed them in a clear, easy to understand fashion.
Want a relationship with a passive aggressive man to last? Become a mind reader and keep your expectations low.
The Passive Aggressive
There are many childhood set ups for this way of coping but most often there is a domineering mother and a father who is ineffectual. There are power struggles in the marriage with one parent backing off and withdrawing. The boy feels trapped between choosing loyalties at home. He is afraid to compete with his father who is absent either physically or emotionally or perceived as being inadequate. In the typical mother dominant-father passive relationship, the boy learns that the job of being a man in relationship is to escape the woman’s needs and subsequent demands.
The young boy is not allowed to express his feelings and develop a sense of self. He wants his mother’s attention and care yet he resents her continual intrusion. His anger grows but he cannot express it so it becomes submerged and is expressed in an unconscious ‘You can’t tell me what to do.’ He is not allowed to get his way by direct confrontation and competition so he learns to displace his anger through resistance. He learns to use charm, stubbornness, resistance and withdrawal to protect himself in power struggles. He rebels by becoming moody, being an underachiever or developing behavior problems. His self protectiveness and duplicity from the squelched anger and hostility becomes a habit that he plays out with other women he meets. He desperately seeks a woman to meet his needs of being accepted for who he is, but puts her off with small, continual acts of rebellion. He replays the distancing drama of his original family in the relationship.
The man with passive aggressive behavior needs someone to be the object of his hidden hostility. He needs an adversary whose expectations and demands he can resist as he plays out the dance he learned from his parents. He chooses a woman who will agree to be on the receiving end of his disowned anger. He resists her in small ways setting up a pattern of frustration so that she gets to express the anger that he cannot.
The biggest irritant in being with a passive aggressive man is that he doesn’t follow through on his agreements and promises. He dodges responsibility while insisting he’s pulling his weight. He often ignores reality as to his irresponsibility and withdrawal. He denies evidence, distorts minimalizes or lies to make his version of reality seem logical.
He uses vague language to sandbag the partner. Inconsistency and ambiguity are his tools of choice. He withholds information and has a hidden agenda. He can’t take criticism and makes excuses to get himself off the hook. He sulks and uses silence when confronted about his inability to live up to his promises, obligations or responsibilities. When he doesn’t follow through, he puts the blame on his partner so he doesn’t have to take it and accuses her of having the problem.
The man with this type of pattern shows little consideration of the time, feelings, standards or needs of others. He obstructs and block progress to others getting what they want and then ignores or minimalizes their dissatisfactions and anger. He is silent when confronted as he has never learned to compromise. He may be a workaholic, a womanizer, hooked on TV, caught in addictions or self-involved hobbies.
He may have multiple relationships with women as a way of keeping distant from one fully committed relationship. He is confused about which woman he wants and stays caught between the two women in his life not being able to commit fully to either. He is confused and can’t understand why the women get so angry with him. He feels others demand too much of him so resists in overt and subtle ways and feels deprived if he must give in to others. The man who copes with conflict by not being there has strong conflict over dependency. He desperately wants attention but fears being swallowed up by the partner. He can’t be alone and live without a woman in his life, but can’t be with a partner emotionally. He’s caught in a Catch 22–wanting affection but avoiding it because he fears it as his destruction. He resents feeling dependent on the woman so must keep her off guard. He makes his partner feel like a nothing through his neglect or irritability but he keeps her around because he needs her. His script is ‘Be here for me, but don’t come too close and don’t burden me with your needs or expectations.’
He has such strong fears of intimacy deep in his unconscious mind so he must set barriers up to prevent a deep emotional connection. He is clever at derailing intimacy when it comes up by tuning out his partner and changing the subject. He must withhold part of himself to feel safe and may withdraw sexually. Closeness and intimacy during sex may make him feel vulnerable and panicked bringing forth his deepest fears of dependency upon a woman. The passive aggressive man lives an internal loneliness; he wants to be with the woman but stays confused whether she is the right partner for him or not. He is scared and insecure causing him to seek contact with a partner but scared and insecure to fully commit.
Due to the wounding from childhood, he is unable to trust that he is safe within the relationship. He fears revealing himself and can’t share feelings. His refusal to express feelings keeps him from experiencing his sense of insecurity and vulnerability. He often denies feelings like love that might trap him into true connection with another human being. He feels rejected and hurt when things don’t go his way but can’t distinguish between feeling rejected and being rejected. He pushes people away first so he won’t be rejected. He is often irritable and uses low-level hostility to create distance at home. The relationship becomes based on keeping the partner at bay. He often sets up experiences to get others to reject or deprive him. He is noncommittal and retreats, feeling put upon and burdened by partner’s requests for more closeness. He becomes a cave dweller to feel safe.
The man with passive aggressive actions is a master in getting his partner to doubt herself and feel guilty for questioning or confronting him. He encourages her to fall for his apologies, accept his excuses and focus on his charm rather than deal with the issue directly. He blames her for creating the problem and keeps her focused on her anger rather than his own ineptitude. When backed into a corner, he may explode and switch to aggressiveaggressive behavior then switch back to passivity. He keeps his partner held hostage by the hope that he will change. He may appease her and clean up his act after a blow up for several weeks, then it’s back to business as usual.
The passive aggressive man is the classic underachiever with a fear of competition in the work place. He cannot take constructive feedback from others. His fear of criticism, not following through and his inability to see his part in any conflict keeps him from advancing on the job.
You are not seen as a person with feelings and needs. They care for you the way they care for a favorite pair of slippers or an old easy-chair. You are there for their comfort and pleasure and are of use as long as you fill their needs. The sad thing is, they can sweet talk you, know all the right things to say, to make you believe that you are loved and adored by a someone who is completely unable to form an emotional connection with anyone.
If forced to deal with the problems you’re having due to their behavior, they will completely withdraw from the relationship and you. They will almost never admit that they were wrong no matter how much evidence you show. They have their own version of reality and will work at making your view distorted.
While most men are having sex with their partner in order to connect more deeply with her, the passive aggressive man withholds sex from his partner in order to keep himself safe and to show her who the boss is. Sex is a weapon to be used, not a way of connecting more emotionally.
These people are usually unaware that the difficulties they encounter in their life are the result of their own behavior. They do not connect their passive resistant behavior to the hostility or resentment other people feel towards them. Dealing with passive aggressive people can be crazymaking. You feel dismissed, shut down, ignored… but in a subtle enough way that you don’t know how to react. At some point, you explode.
He Hurts Everyone in His Path, Including Himself
They’re the men who seem so nice, and trustworthy. They don’t hurt you out in the open, but in a very subtle way, you may not even be aware of. Just the same, they can hurt the people they say they care about the most.
A passive-aggressive man usually grows up in a household which may have a parent who is either passive-aggressive, or overbearing and controlling. If he really has bad luck, he may grow up with both. When the boy decides to be weak, unassuming, and afraid to stand up for himself. Ergo, he asserts himself in passive aggressive ways. This ends up hurting allot of the people he truly cares for.
The passive aggressive man is very often seen as the nice guy that would do anything for anybody. He never says “NO”, at least not out loud, to any request anyone makes of him. He is often everybody’s token doormat. What most people don’t know is there’s a volcano ready to erupt inside this man. He is too afraid to speak up and tell you what he thinks. Therefore, he goes about his life sneaking around doing things he doesn’t want anybody to know about, getting back at people in ways that have nothing much to do with why he’s really mad, and not standing up to the person, or persons, he needs too. He then ends up hurting those he cares about.
Passive aggressive behavior stems from an inability to express anger in a healthy way. A person’s feelings may be so repressed that they don’t even realize they are angry or feeling resentment. A passive aggressive can drive people around him/her crazy and seem sincerely dismayed when confronted with their behavior. Due to their own lack of insight into their feelings the passive aggressive often feels that others misunderstand them or, are holding them to unreasonable standards if they are confronted about their behavior.
Common Passive Aggressive Behaviors:
They rarely mean what they say or say what they mean. The best judge of how a passive aggressive feels about an issue is how they act. Normally they don’t act until after they’ve caused some kind of stress by their ambiguous way of communicating.
The passive aggressive avoids responsibility by “forgetting.” How convenient is that? There is no easier way to punish someone than forgetting that lunch date or your birthday or, better yet, an anniversary.
He may never express anger. There are some who are happy with whatever you want. On the outside anyway! The passive aggressive may have been taught, as a child, that anger is unacceptable. Hence they go through life stuffing their anger, being accommodating and then sticking it to you in an under-handed way.
The passive aggressive often can’t trust. Because of this, they guard themselves against becoming intimately attached to someone. A passive aggressive will have sex with you but they rarely make love to you. If they feel themselves becoming attached, they may punish you by withholding sex.
Do you want something from your passive aggressive spouse? If so, get ready to wait for it or maybe even never get it. It is important to him/her that you don’t get your way. He/she will act as if giving you what you want is important to them but, rarely will he/she follow through with giving it. It is very confusing to have someone appear to want to give to you but never follow through. You can begin to feel as if you are asking too much which is exactly what he/she wants to you to feel.
The Passive Aggressive and You:
The passive aggressive needs to have a relationship with someone who can be the object of his or her hostility. They need someone whose expectations and demands he/she can resist.
The biggest frustration in being with a passive aggressive is that they never follow through on agreements and promises. He/she will dodge responsibility for anything in the relationship while at the same time making it look as if he/she is pulling his/her own weight and is a very loving partner. The sad thing is, you can be made to believe that you are loved and adored by a person who is completely unable to form an emotional connection with anyone.
The passive aggressive ignores problems in the relationship, sees things through their own skewed sense of reality and if forced to deal with the problems will completely withdraw from the relationship and you. They will deny evidence of wrong doing, distort what you know to be real to fit their own agenda, minimize or lie so that their version of what is real seems more logical.
The passive aggressive will say one thing, do another, and then deny ever saying the first thing. The passive aggressive withholds information about how he/she feels, their ego is fragile and can’t take the slightest criticism so why let you know what they are thinking or feeling? God forbid they disclose that information and you criticize them.
Inside the Passive Aggressive:
The passive aggressive has a real desire to connect emotionally but their fear of such a connection causes them to be obstructive and engage in self-destructive habits. He will be covert in his actions and it will only move him further from his desired relationship with you.
The passive aggressive never looks internally and examines their role in a problem. They have to externalize it and blame others for having shortcomings. To accept that he has flaws would be tantamount to emotional self-destruction. They live in denial of their self-destructive behaviors, the consequences of those behaviors and the choices they make that cause others so much pain.
The passive aggressive objectifies the object of their desire. You are to be used as a means to an end. Your only value is to feed his own emotional needs. You are not seen as a person with feelings and needs but as an extension of him. You are there for their comfort and pleasure and are of use as long as you fill their needs.
The passive aggressive wants the attention and attachment that comes with loving someone but fears losing his independence and sense of self to his spouse. They want love and attention but avoid it out of fear of it destroying them. You have to be kept at arms length and if there is an emotional attachment it is tenuous at best.
I’m about to fill you in on a little secret. Anger plays a role in passive aggressive behavior. Yep, that passive aggressive spouse that is driving you insane is angry as hell and full of grief. The passive aggressive deals with anger in one of two ways. Either they have no control over their anger or they have problems expressing their anger.
Adults who have no control over their anger and those who have no idea how to express their anger are grieving. They are grieving the loss of something that was rightfully theirs. Their right to entertain themselves regardless of societies or their parent’s beliefs of what was right or wrong. The right to be heard and cared for regardless of how addicted a parent was to alcohol or drugs. They are grieving the right to express love or negative feelings or a desire for parental attention without fear of punishment.
It is about loss, the loss of normal things any child should expect from a parent. Instead of grieving that loss in a normal way, they internalize it and compensate by being overly aggressive or overly passive. The grief shows itself in behaviors that are destructive to themselves and anyone who engages in a relationship with them.
A man who abuses his wife is often motivated by feelings of loss and grief. Feelings that are expressed through rage. Women who emotionally manipulate their husband by withholding affection are motivated by the same feelings of loss and grief.
The aggression or passivity hides their fear of rejection and helplessness when it comes to getting what they need from their spouse. The spouse is left reeling and wondering what he/she did to deserve a slap across the face or the withholding of normal loving affection.
The spouse feels responsible in some way. That is the sneaky thing about living with a passive aggressive individual. They don’t know how to properly express anger but they are geniuses when it comes to shifting the blame and projecting their own bad behavior off onto their spouse.
Next time you are trying to make sense of some nonsensical behavior by your spouse remember you are dealing with a wounded, damaged child. Don’t make excuses for him/her. Don’t take responsibility for their inability to properly express their grief and anger. Understanding why someone acts the way they do does not mean excusing their hurtful actions.
Knowledge is power.
If a passive aggressive personality and a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder sufferer team up for business, romance, or friendship, the likely end result will be a lot of drama and hurt feelings. No matter if the passive aggressive person realizes what they are doing or not is irrelevant. No matter if the passive aggressive is aware or not, they are presenting a veiled threat with their words and behaviors to the P.T.S.D personality. The P.T.S.D. personality cannot help but sense this threat. It primes the P.T.S.D mind for an adrenaline response and begins putting the P.T.S.D. person into hyperarousal or hypervigilance territory. From this place, it truly takes a small stimuli to take the P.T.S.D. personality from primed for action, to a complete adrenaline response/meltdown. The Passive Aggressive person’s tendencies are then to punish the P.T.S.D. personality for their moment of weakness. This punishment will then feed into the P.T.S.D. again creating a cyclical hell that is very difficult to escape. I lived in this passive aggressive/ptsd generated hell from November 2011 until August 2013. I’m just beginning to come out of they cyclical thoughts and hell that being romantically involved with a passive aggressive while I am suffering from P.T.S.D. It is my hope that the research I sought out to understand my own situation may help others on both the passive aggression side and the PTSD side of this equation improve their own experience.
much love, Breezy Kiefair.