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COMPLEX PTSD

Find healing from chronic childhood maltreatment

WHAT IS COMPLEX POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER?

Complex PTSD refers to the combination of symptoms and changes in personality, identity, and relatedness to others that occurs after prolonged, repeated trauma. Over my career I have found that these individuals tend to 'collect' varying diagnoses from healthcare professionals over time that never seem to capture a full, lived experience. Complex PTSD organizes a confusing mixture of issues and symptoms in a way that fully captures the outcome of prolonged exposure to trauma and creates a roadmap for healing.

FEATURES OF COMPLEX PTSD

If you are struggling with Complex PTSD, you likely have a history of one or more of the following experiences:

  • Domestic violence

  • Childhood physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect

  • Sex trafficking

  • Fundamentalist religion or cult experience

  • Hostage, prisoner of war, or concentration camp survivor

​After prolonged subjection to these experiences, a survivor will experience persistent changes in six fundamental areas, including affect regulation, consciousness, self-perception, perception of the perpetrator, relations with others, and systems of meaning. Following are examples of possible changes in each of these areas:

  1. Affect regulation

    • Dissatisfaction with your life, chronic suicidal thoughts, self-injury, difficulties with anger, difficulties with sexuality

  2. Consciousness

    • Loss of memory (or unusually detailed memory) of traumatic events, feeling disconnected from yourself or your surroundings, feeling outside of your body, reliving experiences through intrusive memories, thinking obsessively about traumatic experiences

  3. Self-perception

    • Helplessness, the inability to take initiative, shame, guilt, self-blame, a sense of stigma, a sense of difference from others (feeling completely alone, like no one can understand you, or nonhuman)

  4. Perception of perpetrator

    • Excessive focus on the relationship with your perpetrator, belief that the perpetrator has total power, idealization, a sense of a special or supernatural relationship with the perpetrator, acceptance of the perpetrator's belief system

  5. Relations with others

    • Isolation, withdrawal, disruption in close relationships, repeated search for a rescuer, persistent distrust, repeated failures of self-protection

  6. Systems of meaning

    • Loss of sustaining faith, hopelessness, despair

IS COMPLEX PTSD A DSM-5 DIAGNOSIS?

Complex PTSD is not currently included in the DSM-5. If a diagnosis is needed for insurance purposes, typical diagnoses used from the DSM-5 include:

  • Other Specified Trauma-and-Stressor-Related Disorder

  • Unspecified Trauma-and-Stressor-Related Disorder

See the services page for a detailed description of my evidence-based approach to therapy.