Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Explained

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is getting a lot of attention in modern times. However, there is a need to focus on another similar condition, complex post-traumatic stress disorder. It is not very commonly heard about. So, we are explaining it here in detail to help our readers understand it better.

What is PTSD, and How it Differs from Complex PTSD?

In simple words, PTSD is a mental health disorder that occurs due to a traumatic event. This condition seriously affects a person's relationships and can often be linked to depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, and even suicidal behavior.

In complex PTSD, the trauma is not a one-off event. Instead, it is something that is or was repeated and sustained. Examples include domestic abuse, child abuse, and torture. In addition to the common symptoms of PTSD, the symptoms of complex PTSD are different.

In 2019, complex PTSD was officially recognized as a diagnosis in the World Health Organization's diagnostic bible, the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).

Key Symptoms of Complex PTSD

Some of the common symptoms of PTSD include but are not limited to:

Ø  Difficulty controlling your emotions

Ø  Feelings of shame or guilt

Ø  Dissociation

Ø  Cutting yourself off from friends and family

Ø  Relationship difficulties

Ø  Physical symptoms include headaches, stomach aches, dizziness, chest pains, etc.

Ø  Destructive or risky behavior, such as self-harm, alcohol misuse, or drug abuse

Ø  Suicidal thoughts

Causes of Complex PTSD

The key causes of complex PTSD are usually severe and repetitive forms of abuse that stretch over a long time. It can create lifelong challenges and can have several effects on the brain. Some of the reasons why people get complex PTSD are:

Ø  Domestic violence

Ø  Child abuse, neglect, or abandonment

Ø  Genocide

Ø  Torture

Ø  Childhood soldiering

Ø  Slavery

In most of these situations, the victimized person is totally controlled by another person and cannot escape easily.

Treatment of Complex PTSD

People who experience complex PTSD are often given the same treatment as those with PTSD. Some treatments can be successful if extra therapies and more intensive support back them.

Two common treatments offered to complex PTSD patients are Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). The former includes 8-12 weekly sessions where a person is taught how trauma can affect their body and how to deal with symptoms like flashbacks by using certain techniques.

In the latter, 8-12 sessions are used wherein a person will try thinking about details of the trauma while making eye movements. It is usually done by following the movement of a therapist's finger.

Both these treatments can be quite distressing as they involve thinking about the trauma.

Sometimes, treatments are used in conjunction with physical therapy to get better results. People who have PTSD often don't trust people easily. So, one needs to have more therapy sessions to ensure that they have ample time to trust a therapist. Even after the treatment ends, patients often need ongoing support and might need multiple treatments over a long period.



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