• Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

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    What is Complex PTSD?

    Complex PTSD, Complex Trauma, Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or CPTSD is becoming more widely recognized by mental and medical health professionals. It is a post-traumatic stress disorder that results from repeated trauma over months or years, rather than PTSD which occurs from a single event. For example, repeated abuse or living in an unstable or emotionally volatile environment can result in the experience of complex trauma.

    The name can be misleading and some people might come to understand it as being more complicated than PTSD. The reality is that it’s not and there is hope that you will get better! What makes it “complex” is that many individuals with CPTSD struggle to identify the traumatic event because the traumatic events happen so frequently, they are a part of that person’s normal life. This is unlike traditional PTSD with which we can easily identify a triggering situation. You can think of PTSD vs CPTSD as a traumatic experience vs. a lifetime of traumatic experiences.

    What are the symptoms?

    People who experience CPTSD tend to experience many of the symptoms as PTSD plus some additional ones specific to this diagnosis. What are some of the symptoms of CPTSD

    Reliving the traumatic experience(s)

    • Nightmares
    • Flashbacks
    • Intrusive memories or thoughts about the trauma

    Avoidance of related

    • Situations/activities (eg. Driving, large crowds, family gatherings, etc.)
    • Places (eg. Family home, a city, bars, subways, etc.)
    • People (eg. Those who remind you of the trauma such as men, family members, etc. bt also can be avoidance of people and relationships in general)
    • Thoughts abut the traumatic event
    • Feelings (emotions) and sensations

    Changed beliefs about self, others and the world

    • The world is a dangerous place
    • Others cannot be trusted
    • You did something to cause it or deserve it

    Hyperarousal

    • Feeling on alert
    • Startle easily
    • Difficulty sleeping and/or concentrating
    • Quick to anger

    Difficulty regulating emotions

    • Frequently feeling emotionally overwhelmed (anxiety, anger, sadness, hopelessness, shame, guilt, despair)
    • This can result in relationship and occupational difficulties resulting from impulsivity and recklessness
    • Increased experience of unpleasant emotions such as guilt, shame, anger, sadness, hopelessness, etc.

    Shame

    • Though an emotion, this one is in it’s own category because it’s such a common experience among survivors and is so strongly tied to the belief “I did something to deserve this” or “I caused it” or “I wanted this”

    Changes in consciousness and dissociation

    • Feeling detached from the emotions or body
    • Forgetting the event even happened
    • Questioning your perception of the event
    • Difficulty telling past events from present
    • Re-experiencing of the trauma through flashbacks – these can be visual, sensory, or auditory

    Preoccupation with the abuser

    • This can include preoccupation with revenge or placing excessive trust or giving power to the abuser

    Somatic Symptoms

    • Physical symptoms that don’t have an underlying medical cause
    • Unexplained illnesses or physical problems that interfere with daily life

    People experiencing CPTSD are likely to experience difficulties related to how they cope with or respond to the symptoms of CPTSD, including: addiction, eating disorders, self-harm/self-injury, social anxiety, relationship difficulties, and/or suicidal thoughts, plans or attempts. Often CPTSD will be missed and individuals will be diagnosed or understood as experiencing one or more of these difficulties. The truth is that with CPTSD, these behaviours disorders are not the problem – they’re strategies the individual has employed to cope with CPTSD.

    How is CPTSD treated?

    The good news is that CPTSD is treatable. There are various therapies available to help you reduce and manage symptoms of CPTSD.

    At New Moon Psychotherapy, healing trauma is what we do. We offer the following treatments that can help:

    • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
    • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)
    • Somatic Psychotherapy and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy
    • Integrative Trauma and Attachment Model
    • Couples and family therapy can also be useful if the symptoms are interfering with your relationships.

    Complex PTSD

    Meet our Therapists

    Reach out to us today!

    This part can feel uncomfortable and it’s the first step to finding freedom from CPTSD!

    When you get in touch, our administrative staff Lauren will briefly chat with you about your needs and recommend a therapist who would be the best fit for you. 

    Use the form below to send us a message – you may also call, text, or email.

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