Your Intense Reaction to the Relationship is Neurological (and normal) …
Psychopathic and narcissistic relationships are more than a little stressful, they are often traumatic. When it comes to the brain, trauma is cumulative; it adds up.
This is important to be aware of, because trauma changes the way the cognitive (thinking) and emotional systems of the brain function. It can shift a person from one stage, down to a lower state, grappling with symptoms such as memory problems, dysregulated emotions, and feelings of stress and pain.
A common reason this happens is because one of the stress systems within our brain ( hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis) takes a neurological ‘hit‘ each time it has to jump into action in response to severe stress or trauma.
Over time with repeated stress exposure (or one intense exposure), a person could easily find themselves with a trauma condition called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
What is PTSD all About?
In general, Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the brain’s reaction to a severe stressor, threat or trauma. PTSD is a neurobiological disorder.
PTSD extends beyond an anxiety condition because it reflects a dysregulation of emotions in general. There is more involved with this condition than anxiety or fear alone.
The range of arousal and emotions with PTSD can extend from A). intense hypersensitivity to Z). emotional numbing – feeling minimal emotions/ disconnected from certain emotions. This extreme range can be experienced in the same person, however at different times. Hence, PTSD is best considered a disorder of emotional and arousal dysregulation within the brain.
Therefore, it would not be uncommon for an individual with PTSD to feel dysphoric, hypersensitive, anxious, unable to access feelings of joy/ love, irritable, agitated, preferring to be alone to lessen environmental stimulation, lacking motivation, feeling hypervigilant, and unable to sleep. Many with PTSD report feeling emotional numbness, as though they are cut off from the positive emotions they once enjoyed. They may lose their ability to feel joy, love, and compassion.
Calm or baseline level emotions are replaced with irritability, desire to withdraw and isolate, a heart filed with pain, and a distressed mind.
For someone who once was once able to feel the full range of emotions and functioned in life with a general feeling of peace – suffering with PTSD can feel like a nightmare. “What happened to the old me?”
Is there any hope?
Absolutely – there is definitely hope. Many people are able to regain their peace, emotional stability, and inner light. However, the brain will keep some of the trauma-related changes. This is because certain systems within the brain are structured to retain portions of past negative experiences to ensure our emotional and physical safety. PTSD is not a condition that simply fades away. In order to improve, some manner of treatment and healing work will be required.
Self-Care & PTSD After the Narcissist
For self-care the following factors will be important if you have PTSD symptoms:
A). Education regarding Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
B). Recognition that a gentler approach to life is required due to the brain’s fragile state.
C) Accept help from compassionate, knowledgable healthcare providers and follow through with the treatment.
D). Make the care of your body (e.g., nutrition/ health) a priority.
E). Bar inappropriate, rude, insensitive, disordered, and difficult individuals from your life. If you can – ban them from your personal space. If they are online – block them. Exposure to such individuals will activate neuropathways of pain, which can trigger a remission of the stronger PTSD symptoms.
All the best,
Rhonda Freeman, PhD