Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder—The Practical Side

In last month’s blog, I talked about PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as well as C-PTSD or Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. While PTSD may occur after a single traumatic event, C-PTSD usually happens after an individual has experienced multiple traumas. To better understand the difference between PTSD and C-PTSD you may want to go back and read my July blog. However, a quick example is such. A person may have PTSD after being a victim of domestic violence or getting into a car accident, while a person who has C-PTSD will have suffered multiple traumas. For example, think of someone living in a war-torn country who listens to bombs and gunfire daily, has to flee their home and while fleeing is kidnapped by the enemy and then abused. This person will have C-PTSD. Perhaps to better illustrate, here are some examples (www.webmd.com) of risk factors for PTSD and C-PTSD. PTSD risk factors may include: abuse, neglect, domestic violence, being forced into human trafficking, kidnapped, incarceration, being a prisoner of war or witnessing violence. C-PTSD risk factors may include: trauma from a young age, multiple traumas, ongoing traumas or abuse by family members or trusted loved ones.

Just as the risk factors for these two types of trauma disorders differ, so do their symptoms. While those experiencing C-PTSD may suffer with many symptoms of PTSD (think triggers, flashbacks, nightmares and fear), they deal with additional symptoms as well. Many people with C-PTSD have deeply rooted cognitive distortions (negative and inaccurate thoughts) that profoundly impact their self-esteem. For example, they may believe that what happened to them is their fault. Or they may feel guilty for their suffering. Individuals experiencing C-PTSD usually struggle greatly with emotional dysregulation and can feel angry, sad or numb more days than not. And finally, C-PTSD often interferes with one’s ability to have healthy relationships. C-PTSD makes trusting others difficult. In addition, some people will feel drawn to unhealthy people or stay in unhealthy relationships because it feels familiar to them based on their trauma.

In the upcoming personal blog on this topic I will talk about the ACE or Adverse Childhood Experiences questionnaire and how this intersects with trauma. However, for now, please note that if you have PTSD or C-PTSD, we are here to help. We utilize EMDR therapy and other treatment modalities proven to help reduce trauma symptoms. Please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our knowledgeable mental health counselors.


Yolanda Brailey