• Do You Have C-PTSD?

    You have most likely heard the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – also known as PTSD. It is used to describe the mental and emotional anguish suffered by those who have experienced sudden trauma. There are many different experiences where a person would experience symptoms of PTSD, like sexual trauma, domestic violence, childhood trauma and neglect, traumatic birthing experience, traumatic loss, etc.

    Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) presents like PTSD, the biggest difference is experiencing prolonged periods of trauma. This could happen as a result of childhood abuse or neglect, sexual assault, domestic violence, etc.

    Diagnosing C-PTSD

    Diagnosing C-PTSD is tricky because the symptoms are usually not very unique. That is to say, someone who is suffering from C-PTSD may be experiencing anxiety and lethargy, but these symptoms match other mental health issues.

    But it is very important to accurately diagnose C-PTSD because of the necessary treatment measures. The main difference between C-PTSD and other mental health issues – say, bipolar disorder – is that C-PTSD is a result of things that were done TO an individual, and not an intrinsic problem. In other words, someone suffers from C-PTSD because of abuse and neglect at the hands of another and not because of genetically determined brain chemistry.

    To help correctly identify C-PTSD, a therapist must uncover an accurate history to understand if:

    • The individual has experienced multiple prolonged traumas that have lasted for months (or even years)
    • The traumas were caused by someone the individual had a deep interpersonal relationship with and/or someone who was part of their primary care network (most commonly a parent or caregiver)
    • These traumas were experienced as permanent features of life, with the individual unable to see any end in sight
    • The individual had no control or power over the person traumatizing them

    Symptoms of C-PTSD

    As I just mentioned, the outward symptoms of C-PTSD may match other mental health disorders. Those symptoms include:

    • Flashbacks and nightmares in which the trauma is relived.
    • Avoiding people, places, and situations that remind them of the trauma.
    • Dizziness or nausea when remembering the trauma.
    • Hyperarousal. This is a state of high alert and one they often lived in.
    • A belief that the world is a dangerous place.
    • A loss of trust in self or others.
    • Difficulty sleeping and concentrating.
    • Being startled by loud noises.

    Treatment for C-PTSD

    There are a few different treatment options for people suffering from C-PTSD:


    Therapy can take place on a one-to-one basis or in a group setting. The focus will be on addressing feelings, improving connections with others, and dealing with anxiety and flashbacks. Many therapists have had success using a variety of modalities like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) to help people cope with the symptoms of C-PTSD.


    EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. This is a process that uses eye movement or bilateral stimulation to help a person desensitize their thoughts, feelings, and sensations associated with a specific traumatic event. The result is the person can eventually recall the memory but don’t feel overwhelmed with emotions, negative thoughts, and sensations in their body.


    Some individuals may need to be on medications for a while to reduce their symptoms. A therapist can work with you to determine if this is the best course of action.


    If you believe you are suffering from C-PTSD and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I’d be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.