Living with difficult PTSD symptoms day-in-and-day-out can sometimes make us act in ways others don’t understand. Unfortunately, some folks perceive behavior they don’t understand as being “impolite” — even when that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Maybe you struggle with physical contact in the wake of physical or sexual trauma — and your family members think you’re rude for refusing hugs. Maybe you struggle to make eye contact, and people think you aren’t interested in what they have to say. Or maybe you lash out in anger at loved ones when you’re feeling especially stressed.
If you struggle with an “impolite” manifestation of PTSD, we want you to know you’re not alone. The only way we can set the record straight about “impolite” things people do because of PTSD is to talk about it. To open up this discussion, we asked our Mighty community to share one “impolite” thing they do because of PTSD.
Here’s what our community had to say:
1. Not Responding in Conversations
“I’m accidentally anti-social. I dissociate in times of fear and stress. When I’m aware that I’m experiencing dissociation, I feel a warm fuzz come over my body. My surroundings don’t feel real. It’s harder to move and harder to speak. I’m not trying to be impolite… I’m just… stuck!” — Melissa T.
2. Leaving Events Early or Canceling Last-Minute
“I go home. I leave early, I leave big events, I leave when I want to stay — because I can only handle so much. I wish people knew I left because I felt like I needed to. I wanted to stay.” — Brittany P.
“Tell people yes to coming to events or friend outings and cancel last-second because I can’t pull myself together. I’m sure they assume I just don’t care, but it breaks my heart. It steals so many precious memories from me.” — Erin C.
3. ‘Ghosting’ Your Friends
“I repetitively ghost my friends by not answering their messages and calls. I don’t want to rely on people too much or bond with them because my PTSD tells me intimacy is unsafe.” — Kareline E.
4. Lashing Out at Others
“Lashing out under immense stress.” — Harmony Y.
“I’m not sure if it’s PTSD or anxiety — I get very short or sometimes aggressive with customer service people on the phone when I need to discuss a problem. Partly from the fear/stress of making a phone call and partly from a perceived injustice. This is (hopefully) different from simply being an aggressive, nasty person — I am usually very empathetic and considerate.” — John S.
“There comes a point where my anger at having to go through all this crap and living with this constant tension reaches the limit, and I unload on the unfortunate soul who just put the last straw on my back. I don’t pity bullies, and when the latest one crosses me, it’s on. I don’t lose control of my anger, but I get on the mountaintop and throw out a big sermon.” — Amanda C.
5. Refusing Physical Affection
“I hate hugs. Get off me! Respect the bubble. I do the one-armed pat on the back thing. Some people get offended by that and say something, some know it’s just how I roll.” — Megan G.
6. Seeming ’Unapproachable’
“I work nights at a hotel. I don’t smile a lot because I don’t want to seem too inviting.” — Emily S.
7. Running Away
“I can be difficult about certain things. Parking for instance. I also race across the parking lot in stores and stuff leaving people behind. They think I’m being rude. I have PTSD from being run over by a car.” — Liz T.
8. Being Uncooperative With Doctors
“I’m especially uncooperative with doctors. I need to know I have control over my health care decisions and especially my body, so I tend to shut down and flat-out ignore them the second I feel threatened by their recommendations or approach. I make them work harder to come up with a solution by refusing to allow them to touch me at times. I just want them to listen first before assuming they have consent because I opted to be their patient. Fortunately, I now have a team that is open to working within my comfort level and continues to support me when I allow myself to be vulnerable with them, even when I respond negatively.” — Kristen P.
9. Avoiding Family Members
“I avoid events with other family members that don’t try and understand after many times of explaining. I don’t like being put on the spot or even want to talk to anyone so ‘impolite’ is a nice way of saying rude. I’m just rude (in their eyes) because I don’t care anymore won’t go to Thanksgiving, social outings, etc. I don’t like to be around anyone at all. And I’m actually OK with that.” — Rebecca J.
10. Relying on a Friend or Partner to Speak for You
“I look at my phone to avoid contact of any kind. Or I hide behind my boyfriend so he can do the talking.” — Ember H.
“Ignore people and rely on my partner to ‘human’ for me. She’s a champion, at least with her I don’t have to say anything, she just understands and reads me at a glance to know when I’m not coping.” — David C.
11. Telling People to Stop Talking to You
“Telling people to please just shut up and do not touch me. To be honest, I do not think it is such an impolite thing to do, I find it more impolite by others to insist on touching and trying to rush me when I have flashbacks or a bad moment and am in pain and am just trying to get some space and air to breathe… but others, unfortunately, seem to perceive it as quite impolite.” — Leila B.
“Sometimes I go into sensory overload and can no longer process things — especially when people ask a ton of questions in a row! So I have to say I can’t handle any more questions at the moment.” — Briana W.
12. Not Making Eye Contact
“Making eye contact. I don’t like people grabbing my arms or touching me at all actually. So makes me seem pretty impersonal.” — Jolene F.
“I overshare. Every single person in my life knows my situation, from my boss to some kid I went to school with. They also know my every mood and difficulty. Secrecy led to 15 years of me being incestuously molested, so anything that feels like secrecy or me being told to be quiet or not speak triggers me and produces the opposite — I positively shout things out to everyone now. I know it’s not ‘polite’ to overshare, but being in a situation where I’d be used again terrifies me.” — Peta J.
Though some of these behaviors might seem “impolite” to people who don’t understand, we want to remind you it’s more than OK to set boundaries. If you don’t like to be touched, you’re not rude for requesting people not touch you. If you need to take a breather in social situations, take a breather! You deserve to make decisions about what’s best for you.
For support from a community that really understands, you can always post on The Mighty with the hashtag, #CheckInWithMe. PTSD can feel isolating, but you don’t have to go it alone. Join The Mighty community and find the support you need.
What “impolite” thing does your PTSD make you do?