Overcoming Trust Issues When You Have PTSD
After going through a traumatic experience, it can be difficult to trust people and you can develop overwhelming trust issues. While many relationships are able to bounce back from difficult circumstances, around 5-10 percent of people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)1 will experience lasting relationship issues as a result of the traumatic experience.
Everybody with PTSD has a different set of life experiences, and the type of trauma people go through will shape the difficulties they face in recovery. For those that suffer through trauma at the hands of others, it can be very difficult to trust others again. And since most forms of trauma involve people in some way, many people with PTSD struggle to trust others as they go through the recovery process.
Why It's Difficult to Trust Others When You Have PTSD
While I experience many uncomfortable symptoms as a result of my PTSD, interpersonal relationships are the area of my life that has been affected the most. Being betrayed and hurt by my family has made it next to impossible for me to trust the people in my life that has been affected the most. Being betrayed and hurt by my family has made it next to impossible for me to trust the people in my life, no matter how kind and loving they are. After all, if my family hurt me, anyone can hurt me. Once you've been betrayed by someone in your inner circle, you start to believe that no one is safe.
It's also hard to trust that the goodness you see in others is real. Sure, a person might seem nice and wonderful, but are they really? Everybody has skeletons in the closet, but some are worse than others. How can you tell the difference? How can you know when someone is flawed but safe and when someone shouldn't be trusted? I don't think it's always possible to know for sure, and that scares me.
How to Trust Others While Living with PTSD
Though it's difficult for me to trust others, I try my best to let people into my heart. It's never an easy thing to do, but having relationships is important to me. Surrounding yourself with kind and loving people is important for any type of mental health recovery, and I don't want to make things harder for myself by becoming isolated.
I'm very slow to trust people when I first meet them--almost too slow, if I'm being honest. I keep the more intricate and delicate parts of my being locked away until I'm certain it is safe to share them. For some, that moment never comes. For others, it comes with time.
Because my PTSD puts limitations on my life, I am careful to only form deep relationships with people who understand that I'm a little different. There are some things I just can't do because of my PTSD. People who don't understand that fact can be difficult for me to get along with.
Learning to trust others again is an important part of PTSD recovery, but it doesn't have to happen right away. How and when you start to form bonds with other people is entirely up to you. It's taken me six years to get to the point I am at right now, and I'm still learning how to love and connect with people every day.
Relationships can be messy. When mixed with PTSD, they can be even messier. And that's okay. It's okay to struggle. It's okay to be confused or unsure of how to handle things (that's what therapy is for anyway). What's important is that you don't stop trying. As hard as it may seem, you can and will learn to trust people again.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, "Relationships." 2019.
Avery, B. (2019, September 30). Overcoming Trust Issues When You Have PTSD, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, January 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2019/9/overcoming-trust-issues-when-you-have-ptsd