Complex PTSD (cPTSD) is usually caused by traumatic events that may have started at a young age due to abandonment, physical, sexual, emotional abuse, and neglect. These traumatic events occur over and over again that the child may think that is just how life is. Those who have experienced multiple chronic traumas in their life that repeat for months or years.
A child may feel isolated as there is no one to relate to. The child is not able to understand why this is happening. Most of the time the child feels very confused because the perpetrators of abuse are usually someone the child trusts. Most of the time it is the caregiver, relative, or even the parent. Out of fear and abandonment, the child may feel ashamed and afraid. The child may feel guilty and may think that he/she is responsible for the abuse. The child may just give up and think that things just don’t get better on its own. The world view of the child is forever changed and think that these traumatic experiences are part of life. As the child grows up to be a teenager or an adult, the red flags for these violent perpetrators are not seen. The cycle of violence continues. He/she may sexually assault, sex trafficking, slavery, or may be involved in domestic violence in relationships. The teenager/young adult continues to witness violence and suffer abuse repeatedly which adds to the trauma in cPTSD.
In 1988 Dr. Judith Herman from Harvard University discussed that cPTSD is a diagnosis that occurs with those who have suffered multiple layers of trauma. People who have suffered have difficulties with behavioral, interpersonal, emotional, cognitive difficulties, and somatization. Multiple layers of trauma result in symptoms such as dissociative symptoms or depersonalization. Persons with cPTSD may have regular suicidal thoughts, they may also have an avoidance of friendships and relationships. They may feel isolated. They may have feelings of worthlessness, excessive guilt, and helplessness. Patients with cPTSD may experience emptiness and may be very distrustful of the world. Those with cPTSD may have difficulty controlling their emotions.
Some may have behavioral difficulties and may become aggressive. Some may turn to abuse alcohol and drugs. They may become impulsivity, self-destructive, and may have reckless behaviors. Emotional difficulties may include mood lability, rage, panic, and depression. Cognitive difficulties included changes in personal identity and may have dissociation or depersonalization. Some may have comorbidities of personality disorders and mood disorders.
Those who suffer from cPTSD may have flashbacks from their past traumas that can be very intense and distressing. They may also have feelings of shame, sadness, fear, and despair. Those who have complex trauma may have negative thoughts, emotions, or beliefs about themselves or the world. Those with chronic victimization may end up having difficulties with self-perception, consciousness, emotional regulation, they may have distorted perceptions of the perpetrator they may have warped relationships with others and their meanings of self may be very different. Those who have complex trauma may have distorted perceptions of the perpetrator where they attribute a lot of power to the perpetrator and is preoccupied with past or current relationship with a perpetrator. Patients with complex trauma may have a preoccupation with the perpetrator and may have anger and may want revenge towards the perpetrator.
Some who have cPTSD may have difficulties in their interpersonal relationships. These relationships are often chaotic and sometimes violent. Some who have with cPTSD are somatic and may see their medical providers multiple times. Those with multiple layers of trauma end up being frustrated because no medications have helped them. Some patients end up going from one provider to the next seeking help for their symptoms. When it comes to emotional regulation, many have persistent suicidal thoughts, aggressive or explosive anger or they may have persistent sadness.
Some who develop cPTSD may be able to leave their physical environment but mentally are still in the environment where there are thoughts and memories that are harder to control. These multiple layers of trauma may linger for months to years.
If you are suicidal thoughts or have any homicidal thoughts or abusing alcohol, illicit substances, acute hospitalization is needed. It is important to have call 911 or crisis hotline 1-800- 273-8255 press 1 or text 838255.