Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or C-PTSD, is a rather new mental health diagnosis. It is common among those who have survived repeated traumas, such as those who endured child abuse or domestic violence.
C-PTSD shares many of the same symptoms of PTSD. It also includes other symptoms that make C-PTSD more, well, complex than PTSD.
Moodiness to the extreme. Moods can be difficult to control for anyone at times. A person with C-PTSD has a much more difficult time controlling them on a regular basis, & sometimes is unable to control them.
Difficulty trusting people. A person with C-PTSD has seen the worst of people, & only naturally has a great deal of difficulty trusting people. It takes a lot for someone with C-PTSD to learn to trust anyone. It also doesn’t take a lot for someone with C-PTSD to lose trust in people.
Flashbacks. There are three types of flashbacks. The typical flashbacks where a person feels as if they are reliving a traumatic event. There also is emotional flashbacks. They don’t feel as if the event is being relieved per se, but the emotions of a traumatic event are being relieved. Emotional flashbacks are extremely common with C-PTSD. Lastly there are somatic flashbacks. They are similar to emotional flashbacks, but rather than dealing with the emotions connected to trauma, they deal with the physical pain connected to trauma.
Toxic shame. Toxic shame is extremely common among those who have survived abuse, in particular those who survived child abuse. Their parents told them the abuse inflicted on them was their fault, which instilled a root of toxic shame in them for supposedly making their parents do the terrible things they did.
Dissociation. A survival tactic, dissociation emotionally removes a person from a traumatic or abusive episode. Many survivors of sexual assault in particular describe it as feeling as if they are not in their body as the assault happened. It also can lead to extensive day dreaming when not in a traumatic situation or even Dissociative Identity Disorder in some extreme cases. DID is especially common among child abuse survivors.
Hyper-vigilance. Hyper-vigilance can take two forms. One is when a person is extremely aware of their surroundings. Even in a crowded place, those with C-PTSD are aware of a person heading to the restroom or leaving the building. Another form of hyper-vigilance is when the body is constantly in a state of preparedness for attack or trauma. This often leads to constant pain.
Suicidal thoughts. The most serious & potentially life threatening aspect of C-PTSD is suicidal thoughts. Those who have C-PTSD frequently battle with severe depression, even to the point of suicidal thoughts. Sadly, suicide seems like the only escape from the pain in the mind of many people with C-PTSD.
While these symptoms are very common with C-PTSD, their seriousness shouldn’t be underestimated. All are life altering, & suicidal thoughts obviously can be life ending. They can be managed, however. I find prayer to be my most effective help when these symptoms flare up. Journaling about them is also very useful. It can help you to see what causes the symptoms to flare & figure out ways to cope with them. Another helpful tip I have found is to remind myself of what is happening. I remind myself that whatever is happening is merely a symptom of the disorder, nothing more. I’m safe, nothing can hurt me. Grounding can be very useful during flashbacks, & it needs to be something that is very extreme to the senses. Smelling a strong scent like lavender or touching a scratchy blanket help by distracting your mind away from the flashback.
Lastly, when your symptoms flare, they’re showing you where you need healing. They actually do have a purpose, so use them to help you.