Friday, June 12, 2020

Complex PTSD

Many of my clients have something called Complex PTSD (C-PTSD). Despite the advocacy of trauma therapists and researchers, C-PTSD did not make it to the DSM-V but is hoped for in the ICD-11. In my experience, it is a very real disorder that impacts many areas of your life, including your emotions, the way you view yourself, and the way you experience others. Ongoing difficulties with interpersonal relationships, including avoiding others, choosing abusive people, and even fearing you are or will be abusive to a partner or child are common. For more about C-PTSD, I encourage your to read the following article, "What is C-PTSD?" To give you a sense of the article, here is the opening paragraph explaining why people develop C-PTSD:

"Complex PTSD comes in response to chronic traumatization over the course of months or, more often, years. This can include emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuses, domestic violence, living in a war zone, being held captive, human trafficking and other organized rings of abuse, and more. While there are exceptional circumstances where adults develop C-PTSD, it is most often seen in those whose trauma occurred in childhood. For those who are older, being at the complete control of another person (often unable to meet their most basic needs without them), coupled with no foreseeable end in sight, can break down the psyche, the survivor's sense of self, and affect them on this deeper level. For those who go through this as children, because the brain is still developing and they're just beginning to learn who they are as an individual, understand the world around them, and build their first relationships - severe trauma interrupts the entire course of their psychologic and neurologic development."

If this is you, medication alone will not be enough as it's not solely a genetic, biologically based disorder. While it can be really scary, the best things for you are building relationships with healthy non-abusive people and engaging in therapy over a long period of time with a trauma informed therapist. If you are looking for a therapist, make sure you ask any prospective therapist whether they have experiencing treating Complex PTSD. Also, make sure you choose someone who helps you to feel (relatively) comfortable with them. It commonly takes at least 6-8 sessions to know for sure whether you feel comfortable working with someone, but you may know as soon as the first or second session if you are not comfortable.