In order to understand Complex PTSD somatic symptoms, let’s first take a step back. You may already have some awareness of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But there is a variation on this all-too-common condition: Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). While PTSD is triggered by enduring or witnessing a traumatic event, CPTSD is caused by ongoing and/or repeated trauma. This may include any kind of sustained abuse — physical, sexual, or emotional.
Also, the CTPSD syndrome can be the result of living in a war zone, human trafficking, slavery, kidnapping, or long-term domestic violence. Some of its symptoms are similar to those of PTSD but important differences exist. For example, CPTSD may cause somatization.
Common CPTSD Symptoms
Difficulty Regulating Emotions
CPTSD can create intense emotions the subsequently, the challenge of regulating them. Dysfunctional regulation may result in sudden outbursts and/or dissociation. Neither extreme feels to be within your control.
Losing the Ability to Feel Safe or Trust Others
Understandably, repeated abuse spawns hyper-vigilance. You do not trust others and also lose faith in institutions. To you, the world (and everything in it) is threatening and filled with dangerous people. You deem it necessary to always keep your guard up. This is one of the complex ptsd somatic symptoms that can feel like your body is betraying you. For example, many of my clients have shared with me that “their brain knew” that their partner was a safe person. But “their body” still responded with fear. Running parallel to this trend is a perpetual search for a rescuer or guardian.
Helplessness and Shame
The child in you feels betrayed and neglected. If the trauma pertained to sexual abuse, shame can be a major factor. Your self-esteem is shattered and you may try to convince yourself you deserved the horrific treatment you’ve endured.
Feeling That No One Understands You or Your Experiences
Combined with a loss of trust, this is very a lonely place. Left unchecked, such persistent sadness can escalate to self-harm or suicidal thoughts.
Flashbacks suddenly transport you (against your will) back to the abusive events. Visual and emotional flashbacks are common for almost all CPTSD and PTSD survivors. With CPTSD, the flashbacks can also be somatic.
What are Complex PTSD Somatic Symptoms?
To help clarify this term, consider that the word “soma” means “body.” From there, it naturally follows that somatic symptoms are physical sensations. This type of symptom is common with trauma survivors — particularly when they are recalling the past or dealing with flashbacks. At first, such signs may not appear connected to your CPTSD and thus, it is highly recommended to get an assessment from a trauma treatment professional. CPTSD somatic symptoms may include:
- Nausea and other digestive issues
- Extreme pain without any obvious cause
- Palpitations and tremors
- Chronic fatigue
- Insomnia and sleep disruption
A specific and unique somatic symptom amongst trauma survivors is body hyper-vigilance. Also called “muscle armoring,” this is highlighted by a constant tensing of one’s muscles. It is as if you are bracing yourself for more abuse or trauma. The overworked muscles grow exhausted, leading to chronic pain and tightness.
And then we have the aforementioned CPTSD somatic flashbacks. A typical flashback can re-trigger the emotions you felt during the trauma. A somatic flashback causes the person to physically re-experience the trauma. It could be pain or discomfort or sensations. That depends a lot on what kind of experiences you have endured. In the case of sexual trauma, somatic flashbacks can bring back feelings of guilt, shame, and disgust.
Don’t Just Suffer Silently With Complex PTSD Somatic Symptoms
Reach Out For Help Today.
Obviously, this is a very serious topic and it’s wise to ask for professional support. A broad range of emotions is cascading and colliding. Trying to make sense of this on your own can exacerbate the issues. I’ve worked with many trauma survivors and have the experience you need to move toward healing. Why not take the time to reach out and get started on the road to recovery? Please read more about trauma therapy and let’s connect for a confidential consultation.