Since our lives have been altered by COVID, the media and perhaps your own social circle have held more discussions about trauma. Terms like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) are being bandied around. What is the difference between PTSD and CPTSD?
What are we really talking about? And how can we tell which form of post-traumatic distress you’re experiencing? Let’s explore trauma and the related disorders below:
Trauma Changes the Way You Function
Are you struggling to manage your emotions? Is worry, shame, or hopelessness weighing on you and your relationships? Has your ability to work or concentrate felt increasingly compromised?
What you’re experiencing is real. And many others are experiencing something similar. Whether you endured a terrible event or lived through an ongoing, intense or scary period of time, your body is trying to protect you. Sometimes the mind misinterprets and the body overreacts when certain memories are triggered.
At this point, you may be stuck. You might be in a damaging cycle of anxiety, negativity, depression, and controlling behavior. To overcome these responses, defining your experience and learning new emotional management skills is paramount. Awareness, a treatment plan, and practice managing your feelings is vital to moving forward.
What Is the Difference Between PTSD vs CPTSD?
Both the world of psychology, and the world of medicine readily recognized PTSD as a disorder. Complex PTSD, on the other hand, is relatively recent and isn’t listed as a separate mental health condition in the DSM-5. Regardless, a wealth of research recognizes and support the realities of both.
Are You Living with PTSD?
Let’s look at post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) first. The term is frequently discussed in media and pop culture, where some misuse it as an explanation for violent, inexplicable, or random behavior after a traumatic event. Unfortunately, this often leads to a stigma that keeps sufferers from seeking help.
More accurately described, PTSD occurs after experiencing and/or witnessing life-changing events such as military combat, a natural disaster, or a violent attack.
If you are living with PTSD after such an event, you are likely trying to navigate intense thoughts and feelings. Common experiences include visual and auditory flashbacks, sleep disruption, and nightmares. You may feel hyperalert and detached from others, even those closest to you. As a result, your career and relationships may suffer as a tendency to isolate and avoid triggers maybe have become a coping mechanism.
Are You Living with CPTSD?
Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) is a mental health condition that shares many of the same intense symptoms as PTSD. Often, too, CPTSD often exists with other mental health problems such as addiction. People who are subjected to ongoing trauma are more prone to this condition.
Generally, CPTSD instead of PTSD is more likely your issue if
- Your trauma happened during childhood
- Violation occured by someone you trusted
- You still see your victimizer or the trauma location regularly
Symptoms of CPTSD overlap those of PTSD, but also commonly include:
- Strong distrust of the world
- Hopelessness and helplessness
- Inability to control emotions
- Avoidance of people and relationships
- Feeling detached from yourself and your emotions
- Life and others seem distorted and unreal
- A confused sense of identity
- Suicidal thoughts and ideas
Complex PTSD also creates intense feelings that cause you to vividly recall your traumatic past. This is often very disruptive to concentration and daily functioning. If you experienced childhood neglect, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, or a war-torn environment, the stress of COVID might be particularly difficult as well right now.
Read more here about understanding complex ptsd.
Reach Out for Support from Helpers who Know the Difference Between PTSD and CPTSD
Finally, both trauma disorders take a toll on the quality of your life. To experience relief, going it alone is usually unproductive. Now that you know the difference between PTSD and CPTSD, it’s essential to seek out professional support.
I am here to help work through the difference between PTSD and CPTSD with you. I can work with you regarding your best options for trauma treatment. Please contact me soon to learn more and schedule a consultation.