What To Do When Someone With PTSD Pushes You Away

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By Oluwaseun Bamisile


Wondering what to do when someone with PTSD pushes you away? This article provides valuable insights into navigating such circumstances.

Starting this article is a section that explains PTSD and how it works. Following that, we will discuss various reasons an individual with post-traumatic stress disorder might withdraw from you.

Then, I will offer several tips to handle such a situation.

Finally, our FAQ section will answer a couple of questions people often ask related to this topic.

How Does Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Work

How Does PTSD Work

PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a mental health condition that emerges in individuals who have encountered a traumatic event. This event could involve near-death experiences, serious injuries, or sexual violence.

After a traumatic event, individuals often experience intense feelings of fear, helplessness, or horror. These emotions are considered normal reactions to trauma, which can get better with good care and patience.

However, in some cases, they worsen over time and contribute to the development of PTSD, as hinted by mayoclinic.org. Moreover, PTSD can affect anyone and can be triggered by a single traumatic incident or a series of traumatic experiences.

Moreover, the NHS says people with PTSD often re-experience the traumatic event via nightmares, intrusive thoughts, or flashbacks. They could also experience insomnia, having difficulty sleeping.

Sadly, these symptoms can significantly impact a person’s ability to function in their daily life. Gladly, PTSD is a treatable condition – common treatments include psychotherapy and medications.

Why Someone With PTSD May Withdraw From You

Someone with PTSD may push others away for several reasons, many related to the symptoms and challenges they experience due to their condition. Here are some reasons a person with post-traumatic stress disorder might distance themselves from you.

1. Fear Of Triggering

Individuals with PTSD may have specific triggers, such as sights, sounds, or even smells, as suggested by webmd.com. Basically, anything that reminds the person of the traumatic event could be a trigger.

Hence, being around people or situations that could potentially trigger them might create intense anxiety or distress. Therefore, pushing people away could be an attempt to avoid these triggers and the associated emotional pain.

2. Emotional Numbing

One of the symptoms of PTSD is emotional numbing. It is characterized by three major symptoms – detachment from others, loss of interest, and lack of emotional response.

That was established in a research paper – Distinguishing emotional numbing symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder from major depressive disorder – by Rebecca Seidemann.

Emotional numbing can diminish interest in previously enjoyable activities, including spending time with friends and family. The person might feel disconnected from the world and those around them, causing them to withdraw from others.

It can also lead to a reduced ability to experience positive emotions, making it difficult for the person to feel close to others. Hence, distancing themself can be a way to cope with this emotional numbness and prevent disappointment.

3. Feeling Overwhelmed

The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, like re-experiencing the trauma, can be overwhelming. Furthermore, it can cause the individual to have several extreme emotional reactions, including anger.

Moreover, wikihow.com states that someone with PTSD may enter fight-or-flight mode when triggered. This is a psychological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived threat or stressor.

It is an evolutionary survival mechanism that prepares the body to either confront or flee from a potentially dangerous situation. Hence, feeling overwhelmed can create a cycle where individuals with PTSD push others away to protect themselves from additional stress.

This can also be an attempt to manage their emotional load.

4. Self-Blame And Shame

According to ptsd.va.gov, some individuals with PTSD blame themselves for the traumatic event or feel shame about their reactions. They might believe they are a burden to others or that their trauma makes them unworthy of companionship.

Due to this, pushing people away can be a manifestation of these negative self-perceptions.

5. Difficulty Trusting Others

Traumatic events can shatter a person’s sense of safety and trust. People with PTSD might struggle to trust others, fearing they might be hurt again, as stated by everydayhealth.com.

Hence, withdrawing from them could be a protective mechanism to prevent further emotional harm or betrayal.

What To Do When Someone With PTSD Dissociate From You

What To Do When Someone With PTSD Dissociate From You

When someone with PTSD pushes you away, it’s essential to approach the situation with empathy, patience, and understanding. Remember that their actions are often a result of their struggle with the challenges of PTSD.

Here are some steps to consider in such a situation.

1. Respect Their Boundaries

If someone with PTSD dissociates from you, it’s crucial to respect their need for space. They might struggle with overwhelming emotions, triggers, or a sense of vulnerability.

It’s important to understand that their actions are not meant to reject you personally. Instead, it is more about their coping mechanisms and emotional challenges.

Therefore, avoid pressuring them to open up or engage in social interactions if they are uncomfortable. While you might want to help, pushing them to open up can inadvertently cause more stress and worsen their distress.

2. Avoid Taking It Personally

It’s important to remember that their actions are not a reflection of your worth or the quality of your relationship. People with PTSD may push others away due to their internal struggles, not because of any shortcomings on your part.

Due to this, it is essential not to take their actions personally, as suggested by wikihow.com. Rather than doing that, try to empathize with the difficulty they’re facing in managing their symptoms.

Taking their actions personally can create unnecessary tension and misunderstanding. In fact, it can make the person with PTSD feel guilty for causing you to worry, worsening the issue.

3. Stay Non-judgmental

Staying non-judgmental when someone with PTSD pushes you away involves maintaining an open attitude toward their actions and emotions. It means refraining from passing judgment on their behavior, choices, or the reasons behind their need for space.

Instead, your focus should be on providing a supportive and empathetic presence. Besides, a non-judgmental approach means avoiding criticism or making assumptions about their actions, as hinted by sondermind.com.

Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand the emotional pain and distress they might be feeling. Recognize that their responses are influenced by their trauma history and the ongoing challenges it poses.

If they decide to share their thoughts or feelings, listen attentively without interrupting or offering unsolicited advice. Allow them to express themselves without feeling judged.

4. Stay Connected

While respecting their boundaries, let them know you’re still there for them. Send a message expressing your concern and support without expecting an immediate response.

Furthermore, let them know that you care about their well-being. In addition to that, let them know you’re available whenever they are ready to reach out, as implied by wikihow.com.

This demonstrates that you value your relationship and are committed to being there for them, regardless of their struggles. This approach can contribute to their feeling of safety and remind them that they’re not alone in their journey to manage PTSD.

However, recovery from PTSD is a journey that takes time. Therefore, be patient and allow the person to progress at their own pace.

5. Encourage Professional Help

If you haven’t already, gently suggest that they seek professional help. Therapy, counseling, and possibly medication can provide valuable tools for managing PTSD symptoms.

Moreover, mental health professionals, like therapists, psychologists, or psychiatrists, have extensive training in understanding and treating PTSD. They are equipped with the knowledge and skills to guide individuals through the challenges posed by trauma and its aftermath.

Besides, therapy offers a safe and confidential environment where individuals can openly share their feelings, fears, and experiences. This can be particularly helpful for people who might have difficulty sharing their trauma-related thoughts with loved ones.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why Do People With PTSD Dissociate From Others?

There are several reasons people with PTSD may dissociate from others, including their loved ones. These include shame, fear of triggering, and difficulty trusting.

2. What Is The Full Meaning Of PTSD?

The full meaning of PTSD is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

3. What Is PTSD?

PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a mental health condition that affects individuals who have witnessed a traumatic event. This event could involve near-death experiences, serious injuries, or sexual violence.

4. Do People With PTSD Lack Empathy?

People with PTSD do not inherently lack empathy. However, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov suggest their ability to express empathy might be influenced by their condition and the symptoms they experience.

Empathy involves understanding and sharing the feelings of others. Furthermore, it can be influenced by various factors, including a person’s emotional state, their capacity to regulate emotions, and their ability to connect with others.

One of the symptoms of PTSD is emotional numbing. This can impact a person’s ability to feel and express emotions, including empathy.

5. What Makes PTSD Worse?

Several factors can increase the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and worsen the condition. These include substance abuse, isolation, lack of support, and constant triggers.


Navigating a relationship with someone with PTSD who pushes you away requires a delicate balance of empathy and understanding. Their actions are mostly a reflection of their struggle with the overwhelming challenges that come with PTSD.

Your response can have a significant impact on their well-being and their healing journey. Fortunately, this article explored several things to do when an individual with PTSD dissociates from you.

Remember that your understanding and compassion can make a profound difference in their efforts to overcome their PTSD. It can also help them move toward a healthier and happier life.

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References And Further Reading

  1. recreatelifecounseling.com – WHAT TO DO WHEN SOMEONE WITH PTSD PUSHES YOU AWAY
  2. sondermind.com – What to Do if Someone with PTSD Pushes You Away
  3. harmonyrecoverync.com – What to Do When Someone with PTSD Pushes You Away
  4. flourishinaustin.com – What to do when someone with PTSD pushes you away
  5. wikihow.com – What to Do When a Loved One with PTSD Withdraws from You
  6. mayoclinic.org – Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  7. nhs.uk – Overview – Post-traumatic stress disorder
  8. theguesthouseocala.com – How PTSD Could Affect Your Relationships

About the Author

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Oluwaseun Bamisile

Oluwaseun is the Lead Content Editor at Ilifeguides.com. He holds a National Diploma in Computer Science (currently studying part-time for his Higher National Diploma). An internet geek with a love for automobiles, he writes relationship articles, travel guides, and general life hacks on the site.

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