What Is Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

What Is Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Have you ever heard of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? If not, you may have heard of PTSD or C-PTSD. We usually associate it with people who have experienced a traumatic event. The condition causes intense anxiety around the traumatic event, which can manifest in intrusive thoughts, flashbacks or nightmares, among many other signs.

However, the lesser-known condition is called complex post-traumatic stress disorder or C-PTSD. Whilst there are certain aspects of it that are like PTSD, it is a separate type of condition. This article will give you an overview of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and resources to seek help.

Before you begin, we would like to mention that this article is created for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute a professional diagnosis. If you suspect you may have any form of PTSD or any mental health condition, we highly advise you to seek help from a qualified mental health professional.

What’s the difference between PTSD and C-PTSD?

Let’s begin! What is the difference between PTSD and C-PTSD? The crucial difference between PTSD and C-PTSD is the duration of the traumatic event. PTSD is typically triggered by a specific or a series of events in a short time, while C-PTSD is caused by a series of traumatic events over a long period. The traumatic events can take place over several months to several years.

Like all forms of PTSD, C-PTSD may lead to other issues including but not limited to addiction, depression, anxiety and changes in personality among many more if left untreated.

What causes Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Whilst Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is still being researched, it’s believed that long-term trauma and repeated traumatic events create different effects than what we normally understand as PTSD. Dr Sonya Bruner from BetterHelp describes C-PTSD as an issue involving safety. For example, those who grew up in an abusive household may lack a feeling of safety. This constant fear of physical, emotional, or psychological harm in childhood can cause problems later in life.

Living in a war-torn country is also another instance where the basic feeling of safety is shattered, feeling unsafe, especially for an extended period, can cause trust issues and issues with hyperarousal. Each person experiences and handles trauma in different ways, making Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder a challenging topic to study.

What are the signs?

Since C-PTSD is closely related to PTSD, the symptoms often overlap:

  • Flashbacks and/or nightmares related to the traumatic events are big indicators.
  • Avoidance is another symptom in which you avoid situations that remind you of the event.
  • Hyperarousal is another where you experience intense anxiety surrounding an event and anything that may remind you of it.
  • People with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in particular may experience relationship issues.
  • Difficulty controlling emotions
  • Negative self-view
  • Detachment from the trauma which may manifest in derealisation and depersonalisation.

Other mental health conditions may also develop. Seeking help early on is highly recommended, as these symptoms may worsen.

When to seek help

According to the Mayo Clinic, if you’re having disturbing thoughts or feelings related to a traumatic event for more than a month, seek help from a doctor or mental health professional. If these thoughts and feelings are severe, then you should seek help sooner. Acting sooner can help prevent it from worsening, as with any condition. Thoughts of suicide should be treated as an emergency by calling your local emergency service number.

What’s involved in a Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnosis?

Since C-PTSD is a relatively newly discovered condition, most people will probably be diagnosed with just PTSD. Typically, the process involves working with a doctor to analyse your behaviours, past events, as well as looking into family history for Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Specifically, they may look at your past relationships and emotional control as well as analyse the traumatic events you’ve experienced.

There are many options for treatment. Forms of therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT, may help. Medication may also be used alongside CBT, otherwise, some professionals may use eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), particularly for treating post-traumatic stress disorder.

Did you find this article helpful? Let us know any thoughts on the matter in the comments below and we hope this article helped shed some light on Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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