Someone who has lived through one traumatic event or several instances of trauma might eventually develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). People with this condition often struggle when they encounter triggers that remind them of their trauma. They might find it hard to foster relationships and place their genuine trust in other people.

However, there is another manifestation of a similar condition known as complex PTSD, or CPTSD. PTSD and CPTSD share some similarities. But while they both are rooted in traumatic experiences, they arise out of different conditions. Let’s examine the key distinctions between PTSD and CPTSD, as well as the primary symptoms of CPTSD, so that you can recognize these conditions.

The Difference Between PTSD and CPTSD

CPTSD is born out of repeated trauma, especially ongoing traumatic events that occur in a dangerous environment. For example, someone who grew up in an area surrounded by war and violent conflict, or someone who experienced physical abuse, neglect, or abandonment from their parents or caregivers as a child, might develop CPTSD. Even if someone was not personally subjected to violence, witnessing frequent violence in childhood can lead to CPTSD in the future.

Risk Factors for CPTSD

What makes someone more likely to develop CPTSD? People who lived through repeated trauma as children are at a particularly high risk of this condition. Yet people who survived trauma as adults are not immune to CPTSD.

People who had little to no opportunities to escape from their situation, such as children from abusive households, are more likely to develop CPTSD. Furthermore, people who were traumatized by those closest to them are susceptible to this disorder. Those who have experienced several different types of trauma are also vulnerable to CPTSD.

Emotional Flashbacks

People who suffer from CPTSD often experience intense, frightening emotional flashbacks. When you see or experience something that reminds you of a traumatic memory, or a person who traumatized you, it can feel like you’re right back in that moment.

You may react to the event in the present exactly as you would if you experienced your trauma all over again. Other people around you might not understand your response, or your sudden fear. Sometimes, you may not even realize you’re having a flashback. You may think that you’re actually in danger or being threatened.

Anger and Distrust

Anger is a common symptom of PTSD. You may feel understandably angry at the people who were responsible for your trauma, especially if those people were your parents or family members. As a result, it can be hard to fathom the idea of fully trusting other people again.

You might have short-lived romantic relationships that end because of your lack of trust. You may even have trouble forming friendships. It can be hard to believe that other people aren’t hiding ulterior motives.

Feeling “Different” and Misunderstood

Above all, people with CPTSD often feel alone in their experiences. They may have been discouraged from talking about their trauma, or taught that they were somehow at fault for what happened and should be ashamed. Therefore, they keep quiet, and may not realize just how many other people have unfortunately also walked in their shoes.

Sometimes, people with developed CPTSD as a result of growing up in a dangerous environment may feel like they’re unable to relate to the experiences of those who grew up in safe environments. They might actually feel out of place in such environments.

Are you concerned that you might be suffering from symptoms of CPTSD? A therapist can help you recover with trauma-informed counseling. Connect with us to discuss your options for booking your first session.




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