What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
People who have encountered or witnessed a traumatic incident, such as a natural disaster, a significant accident, a terrorist attack, war or conflict, rape, or other violent personal assault, may develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition. Chronically experiencing the traumatic event, avoiding situations that trigger memories of the event, increased arousal (such as trouble falling asleep, irritability, and being easily startled). Unfavorable changes in thoughts and feelings are all possible PTSD symptoms (such as difficulty remembering the event, negative thoughts about oneself or the world, and persistent feelings of hopelessness).
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
Some common symptoms of PTSD are:
- Reliving the traumatic event: This can take the form of intrusive thoughts or pictures regarding the event, flashbacks where the person feels as though they are reliving the event or both.
- Avoidance: Avoiding people, places, or activities that bring up negative memories is one way to do this. Another is to avoid situations that bring up the traumatic incident in the person’s thoughts.
- Increased arousal: Symptoms of this include restlessness, impatience, and sensitivity to startle.
- Unfavorable shifts in emotions and thoughts: These include persistent feelings of hopelessness, trouble recalling the experience, and bad feelings about oneself or the world.
It’s crucial to remember that each person with PTSD experiences it differently, and not all people with PTSD will exhibit all of these symptoms.
Read our blog: How to identify PTSD Triggers and develop coping strategies
What are the different types of PTSD?
Based on the persistence and severity of the symptoms, PTSD can be classified into numerous different subtypes:
- Acute PTSD: When symptoms persist for less than three months, a diagnosis of acute PTSD is made.
- Chronic PTSD: When symptoms persist for more than three months, a diagnosis of this type of PTSD is made.
- Delayed-onset PTSD: When signs first appear at least six months after the stressful incident, PTSD of this sort has already set in.
- Complex PTSD: People who have had protracted, recurrent trauma, especially during childhood, are at risk of developing complex PTSD (sometimes referred to as “C-PTSD”).
A person can also have PTSD plus dissociation (a loss of connection to one’s ideas, feelings, or sense of self) as a symptom, which is known as having “PTSD with dissociative symptoms.”
In addition, some sufferers of PTSD may also suffer from other mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, or substance abuse disorders.
What is complex PTSD?
Complex PTSD, also known as C-PTSD, is a kind of PTSD that can develop in persons who have endured recurrent, chronic trauma, especially throughout infancy. Living in a war zone, being kept captive, or experiencing persistent physical, sexual, or emotional abuse are a few examples of conditions that might cause C-PTSD.
What are the symptoms of complex PTSD?
All of the PTSD symptoms, such as the incessant replaying of the traumatic event, the avoidance of situations that trigger memories of the event, increased arousal (such as trouble falling asleep, irritability, and being easily startled), and unfavorable changes in thoughts and feelings can be signs of C-PTSD (such as difficulty remembering the event, negative thoughts about oneself or the world, and persistent feelings of hopelessness).
In addition to these signs and symptoms, C-PTSD sufferers may additionally go through:
- Having trouble controlling emotions, such as having significant mood swings or trouble controlling powerful feelings
- Relationship issues, like feeling distant from others or having trouble trusting others
- A false sense of self, such as feeling unworthy or estranged from one’s own feelings or experiences alterations in one’s worldview, such as the perception that it is a perilous or unpredictable area
- Difficulties taking care of oneself, such as having trouble satisfying one’s own basic needs.
How does complex PTSD impact one’s life?
Complex PTSD can have a profound and far-reaching effect on a person’s life. It may have an impact on someone’s relationships, relationships with others, and general quality of life.
People with C-PTSD may have persistent symptoms like trouble controlling emotions, relationship issues, and a warped sense of self, which can make it difficult for them to go about their daily lives. They might find it difficult to balance work, school, and other obligations, and they might find it challenging to keep up positive interpersonal relationships.
Physical health may suffer from C-PTSD as well. Health issues include heart disease, high blood pressure, and immune system dysfunction may be more common in people with C-PTSD.
Additionally, they might be more inclined to engage in risky sexual conduct or other unhealthy habits like substance addiction, which could worsen their physical health.
People who are close to someone who has C-PTSD may also experience its consequences. It can be emotionally taxing to support someone with C-PTSD, and family members, friends, and partners may also be impacted by the person’s symptoms and actions.
In general, C-PTSD can have a major negative influence on a person’s quality of life and general well-being. As a result, it’s critical for those who suffer from C-PTSD to get therapy from a mental health expert in order to address their symptoms and enhance their general functioning.
Read our blog: How to grow past your Trauma – A Guide to Post Traumatic Growth
What are the causes and risk factors responsible for complex PTSD?
There are a number of risk factors that could raise the possibility of developing C-PTSD, such as:
- Traumatic event duration and severity: The chance of getting C-PTSD is higher when the event is more severe and lasts longer.
- Lack of support or a sense of safety during the traumatic event: A person may be more susceptible to developing C-PTSD if they did not have a supportive network or a sense of safety during the traumatic event(s).
- Age at the time of the traumatic event: Because they are still emotionally developing and may be more susceptible to the effects of trauma, children and adolescents are more prone to acquire C-PTSD.
- Pre-existing mental health issues: C-PTSD may be more prone to develop in people who already have mental health issues like depression or anxiety.
- Family history of mental illness: People who have a history of mental illness may be more likely to get C-PTSD.
Case studies on complex PTSD
Case study 1: Amy
Amy, a 35-year-old woman, was repeatedly subjected to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse as a youngster. She has struggled to deal with the aftereffects of the trauma and has not received treatment for her C-PTSD. She consequently struggles to control her emotions and frequently feels overwhelmed or furious. She finds it challenging to build relationships since she has a hard time believing in other people and pushes them away. Amy experiences sentiments of self-blame and worthlessness as a result of her erroneous understanding of who she is. She frequently engages in unsafe sexual conduct and other self-destructive activities. Amy has struggled to hold down a job and has found it challenging to meet her basic necessities as a result of her C-PTSD. She finds it difficult to have faith in the future and frequently feels stuck and powerless.
Case Study 2: John
John, a 45-year-old soldier, was taken captive by terrorists for a number of years while on a mission. He has trouble falling asleep, and he is easily awakened. He frequently experiences flashbacks to the horrible incidents he went through while being held captive. John steers clear of circumstances that trigger memories of the trauma, such as being in cramped areas. He believes the future is hopeless and has bad opinions about the world and himself. Additionally, he has a hard time maintaining relationships and frequently feels cut off from other people. John battles with thoughts of worthlessness and self-blame, which has skewed his perception of who he is. He struggles with self-care as well, therefore he has turned to drug misuse as a coping method.
What are interventions and treatment options available for treating complex PTSD?
For addressing complicated PTSD, there are numerous interventions and therapy options available (C-PTSD). A combination of therapies, rather than a single therapy, is likely to be the most effective treatment strategy. People with C-PTSD may benefit from a variety of therapy approaches, including:
- Treatments that are trauma-focused: These therapies concentrate on the trauma the patient has experienced and work to assist the patient in processing and making sense of the traumatic event (s). Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) and prolonged exposure therapy are two examples of trauma-focused therapies (PE).
- Mentalization-based therapy (MBT): This treatment aids patients with C-PTSD in comprehending and controlling both their own and other people’s emotions. It frequently works best when combined with other treatments.
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): This treatment teaches patients with C-PTSD new coping mechanisms to control strong emotions and enhance interpersonal interactions.
Read our Blog: Application and purpose of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) in counseling
- EMDR: Eye movements or other forms of bilateral stimulation are used in the therapy known as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) to assist the patient process and making sense of the traumatic incident (s).
Read our blog: Know this about EMDR
Enroll in our course: EMDR Practitioner Toolbox – Treatment of Complex PTSD
- Medication: In certain circumstances, using antipsychotics or antidepressants may help you manage the symptoms of C-PTSD.
- Self-help techniques: Self-help techniques can assist someone with complicated PTSD in controlling and effectively managing their symptoms.
Read our blog: Try these self help strategies to manage PTSD
It’s crucial to remember that C-PTSD treatment is likely to be a lengthy process, and the precise treatment strategy will depend on the needs and preferences of the individual.
Enroll in our course: PTSD & Trauma Counseling with Combination of Psychotherapy
What are some self-help strategies to manage the symptoms of complex PTSD?
The following 10 self-help techniques can be useful for managing complex PTSD (C-PTSD):
- Practice relaxation methods: Methods like progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness meditation, and deep breathing can help you feel less stressed and anxious.
Video: Watch our video on progressive muscle relaxation techniques for PTSD.
- Exercise: Regular exercise can assist to lessen C-PTSD symptoms and enhance both physical and mental health.
- Enhance social connections: Build and maintain friendly relationships with friends and family to foster a sense of community and lessen feelings of loneliness.
- Speak with a mental health professional for assistance: People with C-PTSD may find it helpful to work with a therapist or counselor to process and make sense of their traumatic events as well as to learn coping mechanisms.
- Self-care is important: Activities that improve mental and physical health, such as obtaining adequate sleep, eating a balanced diet, and participating in interesting hobbies, can help lessen C-PTSD symptoms.
- Use positive self-talk: Good affirmations can be used to change negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones, which can boost confidence and lessen negative feelings.
- Practice gratitude: By concentrating on the things for which one is thankful, one can help themselves to turn their attention from unpleasant events to the good things in life.
- Apply relaxation techniques: Applying relaxation techniques can help you control intrusive memories and flashbacks: Individuals with C-PTSD may find it easier to manage intrusive memories and flashbacks by employing tactics like visualization and grounding techniques (focused on the present now).
- Establish attainable goals: Setting and pursuing attainable goals might provide people with C-PTSD a sense of accomplishment and direction.
- Engage in activities: Participate in pursuits that foster a sense of success and purpose, such as volunteering, taking on new tasks, or creative endeavors. C-PTSD sufferers can benefit from these activities.
Video: Watch our video to take care of your health when dealing with trauma.
It’s crucial to remember that everyone experiences C-PTSD differently and that these are only a few examples of self-help techniques that may aid in coping. The most effective coping mechanisms for each person should be determined in collaboration with a mental health specialist.
Download our free worksheet to get started with taking care of your mental health and bidding goodbye to complex PTSD
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