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June 13, 2018

Can You Get PTSD from Emotional Abuse

Imagine being trapped within a traumatic event as it plays over and over within your mind, reliving the event as if it was happening to you again and again in real time. For those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), this can be their reality. PTSD is a reaction to psychological trauma which develops in response to actual or threatened extreme danger or personal injury. PTSD can originate from a variety of forms of abuse, ranging from physical abuse to sexual abuse to emotional abuse.

While most commonly known in reference to military veterans returning home from war, PTSD also affects many people outside of the military, commonly resulting from some form of physical, sexual or emotional abuse.

  • 70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives.
  • Roughly 8% of Americans have PTSD at any given time.
  • Roughly 1 out of every 9 women develops PTSD (almost twice as likely as men).

While physical and sexual abuse are more easily recognized, emotional abuse can be a little more ambiguous. According to Vancouver Coastal Health, emotional abuse is defined as “any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, infantilization, or any other treatment which may diminish the sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth.” Emotional abuse can occur at any point in someone’s life and can be extremely damaging. It can occur within family systems, friendships, and romantic relationships. It is common that the abuse develops into a cyclical pattern, and once it has started, it will continually repeat itself within different relationships in a person’s life. Some examples of emotional abuse are:

  • Threats of violence or abandonment
  • Intentionally frightening
  • Lying
  • Making negative/slanderous statements about someone to others
  • Socially isolating an individual, not allowing them to have access to friends or family
  • Ignoring or excessively criticizing
  • Ordering someone around or treating them like a servant or child

It is crucial that if you or someone you know is subjected to emotional abuse such as the examples above, that you seek help in the form of psychological treatment. A diagnosis of PTSD is given by a mental health professional based on one of the following three categories of symptoms:

  1. Recurrent re-experiencing of the traumatic event
  2. Avoidant behavior
  3. Signs of hyper-arousal.

Depending on the presentation of the PTSD, it is best treated through psychodynamic psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (SP), or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). In addition, PCH Treatment Center also offers Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), mentalization, mindfulness-based stress reduction, anger management, sleep management, psycho-education, and neurofeedback in the treatment of trauma and PTSD. With the right treatment and hard work, those diagnosed with PTSD can go on to live a happy and fulfilling life.

Visit our website to learn more about PTSD and the treatment modalities offered at PCH Treatment Center.


PTSD Statistics (2013). PTSD United. 8 January 2018.

VCH ReAct (2018). Vancouver Coastal Health. 8 January 2018.

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