Complex PTSD Symptoms can tear apart your relationships and your career.
C PTSD, or C-PTSD is the acronym for Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some people refer to it as “complex trauma”. But all these phrases refer to a mental health challenge that can occur in some people, after they experience, or witness repeated traumatic event or conditions. The symptoms of C PTSD often stem from a physically or emotionally abusive relationship.
When you think about PTSD, what comes to mind? Fear? War? Tragic accidents? If so, that’s understandable. Media serves us up regular examples of the soldier who returns from that battlefield, only to suffer with trauma symptoms from his experiences. But physical and mental abuse, domestic violence are traumatic too. C-PTSD from a relationship is also a sadly common thing.
Complex PTSD Symptoms You Should Know About
Let start with an overview. There are 4 Categories of C-PTSD symptoms:
Hyperarousal- Your Engine Idles Too High
If you lived in a traumatizing relationship, then you know what it’s like to feel keyed up. It’s like your nervous system is always waiting for the other shoe to drop. You wait for the next argument, the next fight, the next escalation. Because traumatic experiences imprint themselves on the nervous system, living constantly on the edge like this can leave it stuck in high gear.
C PTSD hyperarousal can show itself in a few ways. For example, you might also find that you are constantly feeling “on guard”. This kind of over-activation can lead to difficulty focusing your mind or sleep problems. It can also make you irritable or angry.
Some of my clients have described it as:
- Low grade anxiety all the time.
- Fighting “Treatment resistant” Anxiety or Depression
- Being highly reactive
Reliving- Your Past Stays Too Alive
If you are a person who has lived in a traumatizing condition, then you might feel haunted by past events. You struggle to put the past to rest. Sometimes this is a conscious mental process such as when your mind just can’t let go of a painful memory. Other times, your past materializes in the form of nightmares, triggers and flashbacks.
Trauma resolution is the therapeutic process which finally puts your past to rest.
Avoidance- People And Places Are Too Much
Because the symptoms of complex ptsd are so unsettling, some of the clients that I’ve treated in trauma therapy have spent years on the run. They run from anything that could trigger massive dysregulation or painful memories.
If you suffer with C PTSD, it can make you steer clear of people, places, sights smells or sounds. Because what you have survived is so painful, you might also refuse to think or talk about what you’ve been through. That’s understandable. Who wants to dwell on all the bad things in life? The difficulty is that it’s that very avoidance that keeps most trauma symptoms unhealed.
Going Negative- It’s All Bad
Many clients have shared with me how their attitudes have been deeply shaped by the repeated trauma they survived. It makes sense. Toxic people can do horrible things that leave psychological marks.
Years ago, a man called “Pete” (a pseudonym) saw me for complex trauma therapy. When he talked about this particular symptom cluster, her referred to it as “going negative”. For example, he would say thing like. “The way they raised me made me’go negative”. He meant he had a very negative, hopeless, mistrustful view of human beings and life itself.
Early life stress that results in C PTSD causes negative feelings and beliefs to propagate. This often leads to host of bad states of mind including:
- Loss of Interest and Enjoyment
- Distrust of self, others and God
Bouncing Back From Complex PTSD Symptoms
But there is good news. It’s possible to recover from complex trauma. We have learned a lot about the human brain and how it’s shaped by trauma. We have also learned how to to help the healing process along. An experienced and well trained trauma therapist, especially one who has treated patients with C PTSD will be able to guide you on your healing path.
Complex PTSD Treatment Is Essential For Recovery.
The key to recovery is to make sure that you are in complex trauma therapy. It’s a clinical specialty that requires advanced training in the treatment of complex trauma. A good complex trauma therapist will help you learn about how trauma affects your nervous system. He or she will also guide you in 1) stabilizing your nervous system and 2) processing and resolving old memories.
Engaging in trauma informed treatment is vital for recovery because often, trauma clients do worse in traditional forms of therapy. There are excellent trauma treatment modalities, and you can learn more about a few of them by poking around my site.
Want to learn more about how I can help? Read my trauma treatment page