When you hear about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD), you might automatically think about war or veterans. And even though PTSD is common amongst this group, you can still develop PTSD if you were to experience a traumatic event like a car accident, natural disaster, or sexual assault. Well, what happens if you experience several traumatic events over a long period of time? And what if those events took place throughout your childhood or even your adolescent years? It could still classify as PTSD, but it wouldn’t exactly fit into that diagnosis. Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) is a relatively new diagnosis, but it has a better explanation of a person’s development from recurring trauma over long periods of time.
C-PTSD is a condition developed after prolonged and repeated trauma–usually stemming from childhood abuse or domestic violence but can occur in any dynamic involving a person being under the control of the abuser/perpetrator and unable to get away from danger. As a result, you would develop common symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but can experience other key symptoms that are not talked about. So let’s talk about the five signs of C-PTSD you should be aware of.
- Behavioral Issues
Depending on the type of trauma experienced, the behaviors you exhibit can be a direct reflection of what you were exposed to. You may find yourself making impulsive decisions without thinking about the consequences. You may become easily agitated and outwardly aggressive toward others. You might even engage in self-destructive behavior or alcohol/drug abuse.
- Difficulty Regulating Emotions
You might be easily triggered and have difficulties regulating your emotions compared to others. You may experience frequent, complex mood swings, explosive anger, or extremely low moods. You might display emotions excessively or show inappropriate emotions in specific situations (e.g., laughing or smiling during tragic events). You may become overly anxious and panic more often than others, feeling overwhelmed and not knowing how to manage it.
- Cognitive Difficulties
You may dissociate or disconnect from yourself and the world around you, feeling as though you’re having an out-of-body experience or feeling like people and objects are not real. You might “shut down” during social interactions and feel afraid to speak or express how you feel. You may have trouble remembering what happened during the timeframe in which the trauma occurred. You may also experience inconsistency in your self-identity and find yourself constantly changing your beliefs, goals, and actions.
- Issues in Interpersonal Relationships
You may find yourself in many complex, toxic or chaotic relationships, whether it be with friends, family, or colleagues. Overall, having a difficult time keeping the peace with others consistently. This may lead to significant stress.
This occurs when you are experiencing constant physical pain that is unexplained and undiagnosable by doctors. This usually occurs from psychological distress from trauma manifesting into physical pain.
Figuring out if you have Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on your own is not advised. If you identify with some or all of these signs/symptoms, further assessment is still needed for an official diagnosis. If you suspect you may have C-PTSD, please reach out to a licensed professional to further explore treatment options & to examine past trauma in a safe environment.