What is Complex PTSD?


Trauma is an incredibly difficult event to experience and process. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that can occur after someone has gone through a traumatic event. It can include symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event, and difficulty forming relationships.

There is another form of PTSD called complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), which is caused by prolonged or repeated exposure to a traumatic situation. C-PTSD can be seen in people who have experienced long periods of physical or emotional abuse, such as those in domestic violence situations or survivors of human trafficking.

Symptoms of Complex PTSD

Complex PTSD is characterized by several symptoms that can interfere with an individual’s ability to function in day-to-day life. These symptoms can be divided into three main categories:

Changes in Self-Perception and Sense of Self

People with complex PTSD may feel like they are permanently damaged or worthless. They may also lose faith in their ability to survive or trust others.

Changes in Emotional Reactions

People with complex PTSD may feel numb or detached from their emotions. They may also have trouble experiencing positive emotions or feeling close to others.

Changes in Relationships with Others

People with complex PTSD may avoid relationships or become extremely mistrustful of others. They may also have trouble expressing their feelings or needs to others.

Changes in Systems of Belief

People with complex PTSD may lose faith in themselves, their country, humanity, or a higher power. They may also feel hopeless about the future or question their own identity.

Diagnosing C-PTSD

When diagnosing C-PTSD, it is important to look at the full picture of what the person has experienced, including any trauma they have endured in the past, before making a diagnosis. It is also important to note any cognitive distortions they may have developed due to their experiences, such as believing they are worthless or undeserving. A mental health professional should also consider any changes in functioning that have occurred since the trauma began, including sleep disturbances or changes in appetite or mood regulation.

Treatment for C-PTSD

The first step in treating C-PTSD is seeking professional help from a qualified therapist. This can be done through individual counseling sessions or group therapy sessions with other people who have experienced similar traumas. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is successful in helping people learn coping mechanisms for their trauma and rewire their thought processes and behaviors associated with it.

Additionally, medications such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed by a doctor to help manage symptoms of C-PTSD. Lastly, alternative treatments such as yoga, meditation, art therapy, and music therapy can be used to reduce stress levels and increase relaxation.

Receiving Help for C-PTSD

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) is an often overlooked form of PTSD that affects many individuals who have experienced prolonged trauma or abuse. While it can present many symptoms similar to PTSD, some key differences include more severe feelings of guilt and shame and difficulty forming relationships with others due to trust issues, among other things.

Those suffering from C-PTSD should seek professional help so they can get appropriate treatment tailored specifically to their needs which could include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy (PDT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), or group therapy sessions focused on healing from trauma among other interventions. With proper treatment, most individuals affected by C-PTSD will find relief from their symptoms over time, allowing them to move forward with their lives once again, free from fear and worry about past traumas.

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