Understanding Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD)
Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD or CPTSD) is a condition similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). C-PTSD results from being subjected to repeated trauma over an extended period and is often associated with childhood trauma, domestic abuse, neglect, or abandonment, and other prolonged experiences of trauma. Repeated and prolonged exposure to these traumatic experiences can cause a person's nervous system to remain in a state of heightened alert, leading to symptoms of anxiety and hypervigilance.
C-PTSD symptoms can be extensive and may persist for a long time. They can significantly impact the survivor's daily life. People with C-PTSD may experience symptoms similar to PTSD, such as intrusive thoughts or flashbacks, nightmares, and physical sensations such as pain, nausea, trembling, or excessive sweating. People with C-PTSD also experience additional symptoms, such as difficulty controlling their emotions, feeling very angry or distrustful towards the world, feeling overwhelmed, anxiety, persistent feelings of shame, guilt, worthlessness, detachment, or dissociation, leading to difficulty forming and maintaining relationships. They may experience physical symptoms such as chronic pain, digestive issues, and fatigue, which are not related to any medical condition.
Psychotherapy is the best treatment for C-PTSD. However, some people with C-PTSD may also experience severe anxiety and clinical depression, which may benefit from medication. Psychotherapy aims to help individuals address and process their traumatic experiences, develop coping mechanisms for managing emotions and stress, and improve their relationships with others. One of the most well-known psychotherapy treatments for C-PTSD is Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR involves guided eye movements or other forms of bilateral stimulation to help individuals reprocess traumatic memories and alleviate their emotional distress. This type of therapy can be beneficial because the individuals do not have to do extensive trauma retelling. Other psychotherapy treatments for C-PTSD include Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT), Brainspotting (BSP), Sandplay (Sandtray) Therapy, Internal Family Systems (IFS), and Somatic Experiencing (SE).
Treatment for children and adolescents with C-PTSD includes EMDR for kids, Play Therapy, Expressive Arts Therapy, and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (TF-CBT).
Besides individual therapy, some people with C-PTSD may also benefit from group therapy or support groups. Group therapy helps participants with similar painful experiences to connect and support one another in a safe and healing environment. Group therapy is a good start for people who are not yet ready for individual therapy, while support groups provide additional resources for those who are attending individual therapy.
C-PTSD symptoms often manifest through unhelpful behaviours, thoughts, and difficulty regulating emotions, leading to difficulty forming a healthy relationship. While not all traumatic or adverse childhood experiences (ACE) lead to C-PTSD, it is advisable that you seek help from a qualified and trauma-trained psychotherapist if the traumatic experience is still disturbing, so you may resolve your past, restore your peace, and reclaim control of your life.
Restoring Peace is a private mental health clinic that provides counselling and psychotherapy services for children, adolescents, youths, and adult individuals, couples, and groups with anxiety, depression, trauma, grief, and various mental health and relationship challenges. For more information, please visit www.restoringpeace.com.sg or WhatsApp us at +65 8889 1848. For periodic updates, we invite you to join our telegram group, https://t.me/restoringpeace.
Keywords: C-PTSD, mental health, stress, trauma, anxiety, depression, psychotherapy,
mental health, grief, therapy, EMDR, Brainspotting, counselling, support