What is CPTSD?

Definition of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD)

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be defined as a psychological injury which results from ongoing or repeated trauma over which the victim has little or no control, and from which there is no real or perceived hope of escape.   This accumulation of trauma distinguishes CPTSD from the better known Post Traumatic Stress Order (PTSD) in which trauma typically involves a single event or a group of events of limited duration (e.g., witnessing a tragedy, being the victim of a violent act, short term military combat exposure).

What Causes CPTSD?

Although there are many causes of CPTSD, childhood abuse (emotional, physical, sexual) and neglect are the most common. Examples of other situations in which CPTSD may develop include, but are not limited to, long term exposure to combat, emergency services work, homelessness, and prostitution.

According to Dr. Christine Courtois, CPTSD can develop when traumatic events/experiences:

  • are repetitive, prolonged, or cumulative;
  • are most often interpersonal, involving direct harm, exploitation, and maltreatment including neglect/abandonment/antipathy by primary caregivers or other ostensibly responsible adults; and
  • occur at developmentally vulnerable times in the victim’s life, especially in early childhood or adolescence, but can also occur later in life and in conditions of vulnerability associated with disability/ disempowerment/dependency/age/infirmity, and so on.

Symptoms of CPTSD

There are a number of clinical descriptions of the symptoms of CPTSD (see below), but many victims of CVPTSD relate easily to these, as described by Pete Walker in his book CPTSD: From Surviving to Thriving:

  • emotional flashbacks – unlike the flashbacks associated with PTSD, these do not typically have a visual component (although they may), but instead involve overwhelmingly negative feelings such as anger, shame, humiliation, abandonment, and of being small and powerless much like a child would feel when abused
  • toxic shame – a pervasive feeling of being worthless, defective and useless
  • self-abandonment – a sense of not being worthy or deserving of care and protection from others or self; dissociating from situations which feel overwhelming or threatening
  • inner critic – an ongoing inner dialogue which is contemptuous, disdainful and humiliating towards oneself
  • social anxiety – a feeling of being different from everyone else; fear and anxiety when around other people; wanting to isolate and avoid social situations.

More on this article @   http://cptsd.org/

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