Most people have heard of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but fewer are familiar with complex PTSD or C-PTSD. Complex PTSD is caused by chronic or prolonged trauma. Individuals with C-PTSD have the core symptoms of PTSD – re-experiencing, hyperarousal, and avoidance – along with other symptoms.
PTSD was first recognized as a condition affecting soldiers, but it is now understood that anyone who experiences a traumatic event can develop PTSD. When trauma is repeated and ongoing, some medical professionals make a distinction between PTSD and C-PTSD. However, it should be noted that the DSM-5, which mental health professionals use to diagnose mental health disorders, does not recognize complex PTSD as a distinct condition.
The experienced mental health professionals at Harmony Hills understand the challenges those with complex PTSD face and have designed programs and services to help. To learn more about treatment options for Complex PTSD, reach out at 855.494.0357.
Complex PTSD Compared to PTSD
Both complex PTSD and PTSD are mental health conditions caused by the experience of traumatic events. Both conditions can cause flashbacks, nightmares, and sleep disturbances. Additionally, people can feel unsafe and afraid even though the danger has passed. The frequency of the trauma is the main difference between the two disorders. PTSD is caused by a single traumatic event, while complex PTSD results from long-lasting trauma that is repeated or continues for extended periods. This is referred to as complex trauma.
Unlike PTSD, which can develop at any age, complex PTSD usually results from childhood trauma. The psychological and developmental impacts of complex trauma are more significant than a single traumatic experience. Therefore, many mental health professionals believe a diagnosis of PTSD does not sufficiently reflect the long-lasting and far-reaching ramifications of complex PTSD.
People who experience a traumatic event will often feel the effects for several days. If the symptoms last for weeks or longer and impact your functioning, you could have PTSD. The main symptoms of PTSD fall into three categories:
- Re-experiencing symptoms – Memories of the trauma can trigger powerful emotions. Individuals can relive sights, sounds, or smells associated with the trauma or have flashbacks and nightmares.
- Hyperarousal symptoms – Individuals feel hypervigilant, jumpy, easily startled, and always on their guard.
- Avoidance symptoms – Individuals expend a lot of energy avoiding triggers that remind them of their trauma, including people, places, and things. They might self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to avoid their thoughts and feelings.
In addition to the core PTSD symptoms, individuals with complex PTSD can have additional symptoms such as:
- Difficulty controlling emotions – Explosive anger, persistent sadness, depression, and suicidal thoughts are common
- Negative self-view – Helplessness, shame, and guilt contribute to a low sense of self-worth
- Relationship difficulties – An inability to trust can lead to problems in relationships
- Detachment – disconnecting from themselves or their environment
- Loss of a system of meanings – Losing one’s core beliefs and values or hope in the world or other people
Treating Complex PTSD
There is still research being done on how to treat complex PTSD best, but the methods used to treat PTSD are effective, such as:
- Talk therapy to process the trauma
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR)
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), to address thought patterns
- Exposure therapy, to face trauma in a safe setting
- Trauma-informed therapy
Treatment for complex PTSD takes time, so teaching coping skills to manage symptoms should also be a part of treatment. It is also essential to have a strong support network. Some of the risk factors for complex PTSD include:
- Trauma from an early age
- Childhood abuse, neglect, or abandonment
- Abuse by a close family member or friend
- Long-term domestic violence
- Multiple traumas
- Being kidnapped, enslaved, tortured, or trafficked
- Witnessing repeated acts of violence
Contact Harmony Hills for Treatment for Complex PTSD
The PTSD treatment program at Harmony Hills offers evidence-based therapies proven to be effective in treating PTSD. Additionally, because trauma affects the mind, body, and spirit, we offer holistic therapies to treat the whole person. If you or a loved one is suffering from the effects of untreated complex PTSD, our trauma therapy and PTSD treatment programs can help you find the relief you have been seeking. Contact Harmony Hills today at 855.494.0357.