Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD)
What Is It and How Is It Treated?
C-PTSD is caused by ongoing trauma which a person may have experienced for months or years, while PTSD may be caused by a single traumatic event.
Examples of C-PTSD may include:
Childhood Abuse and Neglect
Torture, Sex Trafficking or Slavery
You may also be more likely to develop complex PTSD if you experienced trauma at a young age, you were harmed by someone close to you who you trusted, or
you were unable to escape the trauma.
Symptoms of C-PTSD may include:
Difficulty regulating emotions.
Low Self Esteem
A Pattern of Unhealthy relationships
Avoidance of Relationships
Difficulty Trusting Others
Remaining involved in unhealthy relationships
Difficulty managing emotions, resulting in angry outbursts or intense sadness.
Engaging in high-risk behaviors
Feelings of hopelessness or emptiness
Extreme startle responses
Disturbed sleep patterns and nightmares
Intrusive, frightening thoughts
Hypervigilance, or always feeling “on edge.”
Loss of memory for parts of the traumatic events
Persistent feelings of fear, guilt, or shame
Persistent beliefs that other people are “bad” or that the world is generally unsafe.
How is C-PTSD Treated?
Psychotherapy is the main treatment for C-PTSD.
More specifically, the treatment approaches most often used in the treatment of C-PTSD are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT, Exposure Therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing or EMDR.
Trauma Focused CBT involves learning how your body responds to trauma and stress, learning how to manage symptoms and identifying and reframing thinking patterns.
Exposure Therapy is used to slowly encourage people with C-PTSD to enter situations that cause them anxiety and to learn to stay in that situation using healthy, positive coping strategies.
EMDR incorporates elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) with bilateral eye movements or other forms of rhythmic, left-right stimulation.
The strong emotions you experience during a traumatic event can interfere with your ability to completely process the event.
When triggered, these memories can interfere with your daily functioning, change the way you see yourself and the world around you, and impact how you relate to others. EMDR therapy appears to work by directly affecting the brain and traumatic memories, allowing you to resolve them.
During EMDR treatment, you are asked to think and talk about memories, triggers, and painful emotions related to your trauma. At the same time, you focus on a form of bilateral stimulation (eye movements or tappers).
Over time, you’re able to work through the disturbing memories and associated feelings. The memory is still there, but it is less upsetting.
Some experts have noted that the eye movements involved in EMDR might be likewhat occurs naturally during dreaming or rapid eye movement sleep. It allows you to see experiences in a new and less distressing way.
If you feel you could benefit from further support and counseling consider finding a qualified therapist you trust who can help you manage your mental health.
Carol Van Kampen, LMSW
Carol Van Kampen, LMSW is an individual private practice psychotherapist who specializes in anxiety, depression, grief, and trauma treatment at Marsh Psychology Group. Carol is EMDR trained. Contact her at marshpsychologygroup.com