Life is complicated. It’s filled with ups and downs, twists and turns. You don’t know what to expect.

At times, it can feel like you’re on a rollercoaster. Good things are happening for you. Everything is looking up. You’re feeling good, great even.

Then, suddenly out of nowhere, something unexpected happens. You start to fall. You’re going down. Slow at first, but then you fall a little faster. Deeper and deeper you fall. You’ve never felt this low before.

This is what Complex PTSD can feel like. No matter how hard you try, you can seem to pick yourself up again.

Let’s learn more about complex PTSD and its symptoms.

What is Complex PTSD?

Complex PTSD is a form of post-traumatic stress disorder that develops as a response to a specific type of trauma. Complex PTSD usually develops by experiencing prolonged trauma. The signs or symptoms of both Complex PTSD and PTSD will usually begin within three months after the trauma occurred. The signs and symptoms can last up to years if left untreated.

What Causes Complex PTSD?

Complex PTSD is usually shown in individuals who have suffered a prolonged or repeated traumatic event or experience. Complex PTSD is usually caused when the individual is under emotional or physical control from another person for an extended period of time with no escape.

Here are a few examples of events that could cause Complex PTSD:

  • Captivity
  • Child exploitation rings
  • Concentration camps
  • Long-term domestic violence, sexual abuse, or physical abuse
  • Prisoner of War (POW) camps
  • Prostitution brothels

man kneeling on ground with head resting on kneesRisk Factors for Complex PTSD

There are several risk factors that may put an individual at an increased risk for Complex PTSD. These risk factors include the following:

  • Experiencing multiple traumatic events
  • Experiencing trauma at an early age
  • Lost hope of escaping or being rescued
  • The harm caused by someone close like a loved one

The Symptoms of Complex PTSD

Complex PTSD shares a lot of the systems of individuals with PTSD. The symptoms of PTSD are categorized into four main groups:

1. Avoidance

  • Avoiding things that may trigger stressful memories of the trauma like people, places, or activities
  • Trying not to think about the traumatic event
  • Unable or unwilling to talk about the traumatic event or any feelings associated with it

2. Intrusion

  • Disturbing dreams or nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Unwanted and intrusive thoughts

3. Changes in Mood

  • Anger
  • Detached or isolated
  • Distorted beliefs about oneself, others, and the cause of the trauma
  • Fear
  • Guilt
  • Lack of memory relating to the trauma
  • Shame
  • Unable to feel or experience positive emotions

4. Changes in Arousal and Reactivity

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Easily startled
  • Hyperaroused
  • Irritable
  • Outbursts
  • Reckless behavior
  • Sleeping problems

Other Signs and Symptoms of Complex PTSD

The symptoms shown in individuals with Complex PTSD tend to be more severe. Unfortunately, individuals with Complex PTSD also show other symptoms in addition to the ones listed above. Here are some of the other symptoms shown in individuals with Complex PTSD:

  • Difficulty with relationships
  • Dissociation
  • Isolation
  • Loss of hope, faith, or values
  • Negative self-image
  • Preoccupied with the person who caused them trauma
  • Trouble regulating emotions

Next Steps

If you or a loved one are showing any signs or symptoms of Complex PTSD, reach out to a mental health provider as soon as you can. If the signs and symptoms are left untreated, they can worsen over time.

Although it may feel like you’re alone, help is available to you. With the proper treatment, the signs and symptoms of Complex PTSD can be better managed.

Reach out today to set up an appointment for PTSD Treatment. We can help you work through your thoughts and feelings so you can start the process of moving forward.