Complex Trauma & CPTSD

Complex Trauma & CPTSD Therapist

Is your adult life painful, overwhelming or chaotic because of childhood trauma? Do you find it hard to connect? Complex trauma or CPTSD (c-PTSD) is a relatively new diagnosis. It defines the experience of those who suffered on-going and inescapable trauma that has left the person with long-term emotional, mental, and physical side effects.

What sort of therapy can help with CPTSD?

Many people with complex PTSD find talk therapies that ask them about their past make their symptoms worse, not better. Certain types of therapy can ‘re-traumatise’ you.

Grey Matters Therapy’s therapist Venka de Rooij has received both trauma-specific and trauma-informed training. So she knows how to treat trauma, provide grounding and regulation of its impact and stabilise your emotions and triggers.

Her approach is both integrated and holistic, using a combination of Attachment EMDR, somatic body therapy and clinical hypnotherapy.

What is complex trauma or CPTSD?

Complex trauma or CPTSD occurs when adults or children who have repeatedly experienced traumatic events, such as violence, neglect, or abuse.

CPTSD is thought to be more severe if:
- the traumatic events happened early in life
- a parent or carer caused the trauma
- the person experienced the trauma for a long time
- the person was alone during the trauma
- there is still contact with the person responsible for the trauma

The difference between CPTSD & PTSD?

So how is complex trauma different than post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?
- it is the result of on-going, chronic trauma or traumas instead of one significant traumatic events.
- the victim could not evade the trauma (a child cannot choose to leave the parents or caregivers)
- often the trauma was in childhood
- the abuser is often known to the victim.

What causes CPTSD?

CPTSD develops after traumatic events repeat themselves, lasts over a more extended time period, and from one cannot escape from.

So the types of trauma that can lead to complex PTSD are things like:

- relationships that involve chronic abuse and violence
- on-going psychological or mental abuse
- child sexual abuse
- physical abuse and neglect
- having to witness constant abuse or violence of another person like a parent or sibling
- kidnappings, hostage-taking, prisoner of war
- human trafficking and slavery
- being forced to be a sex worker
- cult membership.

Complex Trauma CPTSD

Complex PTSD or complex trauma is not yet entirely accepted by all medical professionals that people who suffered on-going trauma or traumas, usually as a child, would have different symptoms than those who experienced a single traumatic event.

In the US complex PTSD is not an official diagnosis yet, although the latest version of the diagnostic manual, the DSM-V, does hint at a possible set of other symptoms. The closest diagnosis is “disorders of extreme stress not otherwise specified (DESNOS)”.

In the UK, The National Guideline for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) still refuses to recognise complex PTSD.
You may instead be given a diagnosis from the World Health Organisation’s manual the ICD-10 called “enduring personality change after catastrophic experience (EPCACE).

Symptoms of complex trauma 

Complex trauma does have the same symptoms as PTSD (read more about PTSD here).

The difference is that it also involves other emotional symptoms that can include:
- emotional ‘dysregulation’ - you struggle to control your emotions and often feel overwhelmed by them
- trust issues – you do not trust the world, others or yourself
- relationships difficulties – you find relationships hard you may avoid them
- hopelessness – you do not think you will ever change or that life will get any better
- disconnection – you find it hard to connect with people as nobody understands you or you may feel very different than most people and
- low self-esteem – you feel so worthless you may often consider suicide.
- identity issues – uncertain who you are as a person
- “emotional’ flashbacks - sudden and often prolonged regressions (‘amygdala hijackings’) to the frightening circumstances of childhood. Emotional flashbacks are often experienced as intense and confusing episodes of fear or despair, or as sorrowful or enraged reactions to this fear and pain.

Complex PTSD (CPTSD) 

CPTSD occurs when adults or children who have repeatedly experienced traumatic events, such as violence, neglect, or abuse.   

Professions like doctors, police, firemen and paramedics are most likely affected due to the repeated exposure to disaster, accidents, violent acts or need to deliver traumatic news to others.

CPTSD is thought to be more severe if:

  • the traumatic events happened early in life

  • a parent or carer caused the trauma

  • the person experienced the trauma for a long time

  • the person was alone during the trauma

  • there's still contact with the person responsible for the trauma