Communication and PTSD

10 ways PTSD messes with communication:

  1. powerful sense of disconnect
  2. unable to create emotional rapport
  3. lack of assertiveness
  4. hypersensitivity
  5. rage
  6. rigidity
  7. difficulty processing information
  8. difficulty organizing information
  9. lack of concentration & focus
  10. memory issues

Good communication is crucial!

Communication in general can be a difficult skill to master. Finding ways to say just the right thing and trying to express yourself in a way that you feel heard or understood can be challenging. Connection and belonging is a basic human need but it can be difficult to create this through the complexities of communication, since there can be different interpretations for just about anything said. When you have experienced trauma, communication can become even more challenging.

  1. Powerful Sense of Disconnect

Being in my own world characterized by fight-or-flight perceptions means I don’t know how I am coming across and may not grasp the other person’s point of view. I won’t be able to anticipate their reactions. People may not understand what I’m saying. I feel as if I do not belong to their world, which means the commutation has to cross a great distance.

  1. Unable to Create Emotional Rapport

Not being good at creating a sense of rapport at the beginning of the conversation, due to numbness and lack of affect, means the communication may fall apart easily.

  1. Lacking Assertiveness

Exhibiting PTSD symptoms of learned helplessness, shock, numbness, apathy may mean I get treated like a doormat. Feeling helpless and powerless may lead to problems getting heard and getting needs met successfully.

  1. Hypersensitivity

Being extremely sensitive – to the other person’s tone of voice, if they are rude or if they are not listening etc. – makes me cut off communication at the slightest thing. Also, being sensitive to standards of behavior that demonstrate trustworthiness, having a sensitivity around betrayal and breaches of trust, means I may exit the situation if someone is acting below my standard.

  1. Rage

Being prone to experience sudden, overwhelming rage (the fight response), whether expressed or repressed, may lead to the communication ending in a negative way – e.g. arguments, cutting off the person, leaving.

  1. Rigidity

When I won’t budge on my idea or position about what needs to happen, this can stop communication from progressing. Being rigid around specific things that are important to me is my way of preventing any danger. It’s my way of taking back the control I lost during trauma.

  1. Difficulty processing information

Sometimes, while listening and while speaking, I may lose track of some piece of information and need to be reminded of what all the pieces are and spend a moment catching up to you and seeing the connections. I may not be able to come to a decision right away during the conversation. I may need to write some things down so I can completely process it all after the conversation and then get back to you with my decision. It takes time for me to find my own conclusion after being given a lot of information.

  1. Difficulty organizing information

Sometimes, I don’t say things in the most optimal order because I have not organized it all in my mind before speaking. Sometimes I mix things up even if I had them organized before beginning the conversation. If I’m nervous I might get scrambled. I may forget to give the context first and details second.

  1. Lack of concentration and focus

I can get distracted by things while trying to communicate. I may experience distracting thoughts or feelings. I may need to ask you to tell me what you just said again.

  1. Memory issues

Sometimes I lose my train of thought and forget what I had intended to say or what my goals were when I set out to have the communication. I may have to call back a little later when I remember something important I wanted to say.