A frequently overlooked mental illness, complex post-traumatic stress disorder, has been explored by Mieka R. Her advice, "recovery is a journey," is important guidance for healing the trauma.
What is Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Written by Mieka R.
Most people have heard of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that afflicts many men and women returning from a war zone or after a single very stressful event. It is characterized by flashbacks, unstable mood, and survivor’s remorse. However, many have never heard of a condition that often develops in childhood and changes the course of the child’s life forever, complex post traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD).
“Complex PTSD comes in response to chronic traumatization over the course of months or, more often, years. This can include emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuses, domestic violence, living in a war zone, being held captive, human trafficking, and other organized rings of abuse, and more” (CPTSD Foundation)
Common symptoms CPTSD include:
-avoiding situations that remind a person of the trauma
-dizziness or nausea when remembering the trauma
-hyperarousal, which means being in a continual state of high alert
-the belief that the world is a dangerous place
-a loss of trust in the self or others
-difficulty sleeping or concentrating
Complex PTSD can cause a person to view themselves negatively and feel helpless, guilty, or ashamed. They often consider themselves to be different from other people. Relationships may suffer due to difficulties trusting and interacting, and because of a negative self-view. A person with CPTSD may also tend to develop unhealthy relationships if they are what the person has known in the past.
People with CPTSD often avoid things or situations that they associate with their trauma. Because of this, they aren’t able to learn that they can manage their fear when presented with these stimuli.
Treatments for PTSD and CPTSD are similar. The main treatments are psychotherapy, medication, or a combo of both. Treatment can also include trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR). Therapy for CPTSD can help you learn more about your trauma and how it affects you. Therapy can also help you develop coping skills for triggers and give you tools to manage your symptoms.
For some, medication such as antidepressants may also be helpful to manage symptoms.
One difference between PTSD and CPTSD is that those living with CPTSD may need long-term therapy and support to recover.
If you think you’re living with CPTSD, or have experienced any type of trauma, you can reach out to a mental health professional or even your primary doctor if you have one. They can offer an accurate diagnosis or referrals, while providing valuable resources to help feel better.
Aside from seeking treatment for acute stress disorder, things you can do to help yourself include:
-Engaging in mild exercise to help reduce stress and boost your mood.
-Setting realistic goals for yourself.
-Spending time with people you trust and educating them about your experience and things that may trigger symptoms.
-Identifying and seeking out comforting situations and places.
-Attending a support group for people who have experienced trauma.
Recovery from CPTSD is an ongoing process. It’s important to be easy on yourself or your loved one with CPTSD. With the right therapy, medication and lifestyle changes, people can manage or reduce their symptoms and improve their overall wellness.
If you are living with CPTSD, remember to give yourself some grace. Recovery is a journey and it is not linear. Healing from trauma is possible!