Man with head in his hands and woman looking onMany already have some idea of what PTSD is. Images of veterans or assault survivors come to mind. However, those who suffer from PTSD are not limited to car accidents, violent attacks, natural disasters, etc.

There is a type of PTSD called C-PTSD. The “C” stands for “Complex”. Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is different from just PTSD, and so are the people who experience it. Let’s look at what C-PTSD entails.

What is C-PTSD?

C-PTSD refers to trauma that occurs outside a single event. This might include recurring sexual or emotional abuse, issues relating to a chronic illness, childhood neglect, experience as a prisoner of war, and more.

broken heart on tableWhen it comes to symptoms, C-PTSD can include symptoms of PTSD including:

  • Nightmares and flashbacks
  • Hyperarousal (difficulty sleeping and concentrating, as well as startling at loud noises)
  • Somatic symptoms (physical sensations with no underlying medical cause)
  • Avoiding places or situations that remind you of the trauma
  • Trust issues with yourself and others

However, C-PTSD also includes a subset of symptoms all its own. Remember, C-PTSD typically stems from repeated or long-term trauma. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Troubles with emotional regulation (explosive anger or ongoing sadness)
  • Changes in consciousness (dissociation)
  • Negative self-perception
  • Relationship struggles
  • Distorted perception of the abuser (e.g. a preoccupation with revenge)
  • Loss of meaning (developing a sense of hopelessness or losing faith in religion)

Identifying C-PTSD

Child with head down and teddy bearSince it’s a relatively new entity, C-PTSD can be more difficult to identify initially. Often, it can come disguised as other disorders like Major Depressive Disorder or Bipolar Disorder.

Since there is no clear, one event that led to this disorder, a person’s entire history must be looked at. When seeing a mental health professional, they’ll look at your symptoms as well as looking into your situation growing up, family dynamics, past relationships, etc. It’s here where patterns can be uncovered.

Keep track of what symptoms you’re having, as well as how often. And be sure to be honest about any medications or recreational substances you may be taking.

Treating C-PTSD

Fortunately, there are treatment options for C-PTSD that can help you alleviate symptoms and help you better manage them.

Treating C-PTSD is similar to how PTSD is treated. There are three main approaches (or a combination thereof).

1. Psychotherapy

This is where you sit down and talk to a therapist about what you’re experiencing. This can be done individually or in a group setting. The approach that I use is eclectic, meaning that I pull from different approaches, including cognitive, mindfulness, psychodynamic, creative and expressive modalities.

This method can help you develop healthy coping strategies, as well as dig deeper into the underlying issues for healing.

2. EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing)

This is commonly used in treating PTSD and is also helpful for C-PTSD. Your therapist will ask you to think about a traumatic moment combined with movement. They may have you move your eyes side to side or have you tap yourself.

After looking at the negative memory, the process repeats with a positive belief. The idea is to rewire the traumatized parts of your brain and desensitize you to the traumatic memories.

Note that while in some PTSD cases, results can happen fairly quickly (within a handful of sessions), but with C-PTSD it may take longer.

3. Medication

For some, combining medication with one or both of the above methods can prove beneficial. Although, medication may not be the right option for everyone.

If it is a good option for you, you may be prescribed antidepressants to help stabilize and improve your mood as you heal. Depending on the person, you may find you only need these medications short-term, while others may need them long-term.

If you think you may be suffering the effects of C-PTSD, don’t hesitate to reach out. You don’t have to recover alone. Together, we can work toward a more peaceful and confident everyday life.

For more information about my services in Delray Beach, FL and Sandy Springs, GA, click here Trauma Therapy.