Anxiety & C-PTSD

General anxiety & anxiety associated with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or C-PTSD, are very different.  Generalized anxiety involves things that might happen.  What if I get fired?  What if I get into a car accident?  Anxiety that stems from C-PTSD is nothing like that.  For me, I seldom even know the cause of my anxiety.  I just feel crippling anxiety with no clue why.

One aspect of this anxiety that has baffled me the most is sometimes when I wake up, either during the night or first thing in the morning, it attacks.  It comes in these awful waves where I feel like the anxiety is going to overwhelm me, then it passes, then it comes back again & passes again.  This happens usually for a good half hour at least until eventually the anxiety just stays away until the next time.  For quite some time now, I’ve tried learning what this is about with no luck… that is until recently.  I wanted to share what I learned since I have no doubt  many others live with this obnoxious phenomenon, too.  If you’re one of the “lucky” ones like me, I hope this helps you.

After having survived trauma, in particular repeated traumas, your brain knows the worst case scenario.  It’s seen some really ugly things, up close & personal, & quite frankly does NOT want to go back to that.  Understandable, of course.  The problem is the brain will do anything to avoid this, & can take things too far.

The traumatized brain is in a constant state of fight, flight or freeze.  Sometimes, the brain acts like it believes danger is about to happen at random, such as I mentioned happens to me when I first wake up.  Whether danger is actually there or not, it thinks danger is lurking & triggers the fight, flight or freeze responses kick into overdrive.  It’s kind of like car alarms when they first became popular in the late 1980’s & early 1990’s.  They were so easily triggered that virtually nothing could make them sound.  This is like anxiety in a brain that’s experienced repeated traumas.

And good luck at this point convincing your panicked brain that no danger exists.  It knows better because it’s seen some pretty terrible things.  It won’t be reassured that there is no danger because of that.

When this type of anxiety kicks in, you can handle it.  I know it’s hard, but it’s possible.

Remind yourself of what is happening, that this anxiety is only a symptom of C-PTSD.  It isn’t a sign that there is any potential danger.  It’s a symptom of a brain that has been broken due to experiencing horrific traumas.  Nothing more.  Maybe think of it like a toothache.  If you have a cavity, your tooth will hurt until you’ve seen the dentist.  If you don’t know that you have a cavity, that pain will scare you.  However, if you are aware of having a cavity, the pain will still hurt of course, but at least you won’t be scared because you know why you have the pain.  When you know what is happening, it can make it much easier to cope with a difficult situation.

Try to understand why the anxiety is so bad.  You may not be able to figure that out, but hopefully you can.  If you can, then you can calm the anxiety by figuring out a solution to the problem or reassuring yourself that the problem isn’t so bad.

Never forget to pray, too.  God understands us even better than we understand ourselves.  When you don’t understand why the anxiety is happening or how to calm it down, He will.  Let Him help you!  He will be glad to!


Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism

22 responses to “Anxiety & C-PTSD

  1. ibikenyc

    Once again, you seem to be inside my head!

    This has been happening to me lately, fortunately only occasionally, and fortunately never too badly: For a period in my late teens and early twenties, I suffered from anxiety attacks so severe that several times I went to the ER because I was sure I was having a heart attack.

    These recent episodes have been nowhere near so bad. However, sometimes I’m terrified they will get that bad, which of course makes everything worse.

    Like you, I wake up feeling this way either during the night or first thing in the morning. Hadn’t thought to time it, but the half-hour you describe sounds about “right.”

    Thank you so much for talking about this and the reminder to pray ❤

    (Love the car-alarm analogy!)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Why is beyond me, but it always surprises me when someone says they experience something similar to me. Makes no sense really… I know God wants me to share these things because others experience what I do. Crazy….

      Anyway….I’m sorry you’re going through this too! I hope you can manage this nonsense! ❤❤

      Liked by 3 people

    • “For a period in my late teens and early twenties, I suffered from anxiety attacks so severe that several times I went to the ER because I was sure I was having a heart attack.” ~ me, too. And isn’t it lovely the way the medical personnel treat you after they figure out that it’s “all in your head”?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Not a lot of compassion in the medical community for sure. @@

        Liked by 1 person

      • ibikenyc

        I’m so sorry you went through that. It’s a thing I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. (Well, MAYBE them!)
        Yeah, lovely. Nothing shames like rolling eyes. Not ONE of the medical people I saw ever offered me anything like, oh, tranquilizers or something, either.
        What ever happened to “First, do no harm”?????

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m so sorry you went through that, too.

          When I became a nurse years later, I discovered the flip side of that: having too much empathy as a medical professional can be hazardous to one’s health! I’m talking about the health of the medical professional. I realized that a lot of nurses and doctors developed their cold attitude, in order to survive. It’s a conundrum, for sure!

          Liked by 1 person

          • ibikenyc

            Thanks for that reminder: My one-time BFF / “mother” / “sister” was an RN and alluded to this.
            I remember once her son, who was at the time maybe five or six, tripped and fell and hit his head on something. Of course the resultant tiny gash was spewing like Old Faithful. His sister (seven or eight) and I were both freaking out. My friend was like, “Oh, head wounds always gush; ho hum,” and just cleaned it up and that was that.
            You must be OUTSTANDING at your job! 🙂


  2. Cynthia & my other friends here – Sam Vaknin has recently put out a lecture that posits narcissism in a different way. It’s long, and there is a translator, so I want to listen to it a few more times to fully digest. However, the take-aways for me right now is that Narcissism is a passing down of CPTSD. Childhood trauma in the narcissist means they create a False “Photos” of themselves, their abusive parents, and everyone in their world. They are unwilling to see “others” as they really are. Instead, they live in a fantasy where the “others” must conform to their False “photos”. Any deviation is a threat. When you present yourself as an individual person, they feel threatened, and that causes the “rage”.

    Here is the link:

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing that link! That makes a lot of sense. I would guess it isn’t true in 100% of situations but plenty nonetheless. Reason I say this is my mother was raised by her narcissistic mother & became an overt narcissist. My father was raised by good (yet imperfect) parents & became a covert one. I think too, his TBI had some to do with his narcissism. From what I gather, it stemmed from his parents spoiling him then the TBI made it worse.

      Liked by 3 people

      • My mother had a severe TBI when she was only seven years old. She was playing on a metal bar at school and landed on her head on cement. My mother has told me that she “never felt the same” after that, and always blames her poor memory on that. Plus her mother was a narcissist — being the youngest in the family, she was spoiled, especially after nearly dying at age 4 of appendicitis, only a few months after her father died of appendicitis. That would do a number on any kid.

        And my mother’s father had eight sisters and brothers, and one of his brothers died when my grandfather was a little boy. The brother that died, of double pneumonia, was 13, I think. And the parents’ marriage almost ended then, because the mother blamed the father for making the boy do his farm chores when he was sick. Yikes. Then my grandfather joined the Army and fought in WW2. He returned from the war a functioning alcoholic, and went to work as a prison guard at a medical center for federal prisoners. From there, he worked his way up through the Federal prison system until he was the associate warden at Leavenworth Federal prison.

        My maternal grandfather was so narcissistic, a story often told about him was that he liked to say that if God didn’t like something he did, he could “kiss my…” uh. .. where the sun doesn’t shine.

        My mother has told me stories of how harshly her dad punished her as a child, beating her until she had welts. And I saw firsthand how impossible it was for anyone to please her mother, my histrionic, narcissistic grandmother. I also saw the way my grandparents doted on their only other child, my mom’s younger sister, the Golden Child who could do no wrong, while my mother could do nothing right.

        Yes, I believe that when you look hard enough, the reason why narcissism develops in someone becomes obvious. That doesn’t excuse their evil behavior by any means. But it does help explain it.

        Thanks for the link Doug, I will check it out. God bless. Sending safe ((HUGS)) to everyone here. 💘💘

        Liked by 2 people

        • ibikenyc

          Wow. You’ve got quite a legacy.
          I don’t at all mean this to sound flip or dimissive, so please forgive me if it does, but as I was reading your post I kept thinking, “My goodness; you should write a book!”
          Telling God to kiss his butt is absolutely the most-Narcissistic thing I’ve ever heard of in my entire life.
          Nature vs “nurture.” We may truly never know.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I very much appreciate your encouragement, because I am writing a book, and… it’s not easy!

            Growing Up Crazy, A Memoir: Surviving Narcissistic Abuse, PTSD, and a Mental Institution. That’s the title. I first tried to write this story in 1975, long before I knew anything about narcissistic abuse. Yeah, I wasn’t ready to write it way back then, but I believe I am finally ready now. And, I am writing. Every single day. I’ve written so much, it looks like it’s going to be the same length as War and Peace. Which means, when I finish this draft, I will have a ton of editing and cutting to do.

            It’s eye-opening, if nothing else. Writing my story, I mean.

            Liked by 1 person

            • ibikenyc

              I remember your talking about your book on your blog a few months back, so when I had the thought, I was like “DUH! She IS!” 🙂
              I’d forgot how long ago you started, though. You were a kid!
              Quoting Sara Bareilles:
              “Say what you wanna say
              And let the words fall out. . .”

              Liked by 1 person

  3. Deskraven

    As someone living with PTSD, Bipolar Disorder and Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia this rings true to my heart. Thank you so much for sharing on a difficult topic I used to experience severe panic attacks that would leave me a shaking sobbing mess on the floor with a minimum two day recovery. It has improved with mindfulness like what you described here, as well as dietary changes and intentional hydration. It sounds silly but the next time you have an attack, sit down and chug water. You will see that it helps. If you would like more support, please visit my blog, as I write about mental health too. Stay strong!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Shonnie

    I am so sorry for all that you have gone through! What can help is to read the Bible. As well as prayer. I look forward to the the day when we will live on earth in peaceful conditions.

    Psalms 34:18-Jehovah is close to the brokenhearted; He saves those who are crushed in spirit.

    Psalms 65:2-O Hearer of prayer, to you people of all sorts will come.

    Psalms 37:11-But the meek will possess the earth, And they will find exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.


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