Repeated Search For A Rescuer
Subconsciously looking for someone to rescue them is something many survivors understandably think about during the ongoing trauma and this can continue on after the trauma has ceased. The survivor can feel helpless and yearn for someone to come and rescue them from the pain they feel and want them to make their lives better. This sadly often leads to the survivor seeking out the wrong types of people and being re-traumatized repeatedly.
Stay In Clear Communication
Each person will have different symptoms and triggers. Clear communication can help you plan the most supportive ways to respond when they arise. Communicating about symptoms and triggers can help you to create an intentional, supportive response.
For example, one common symptom of PTSD and complex PTSD is dissociation. If your partner or friend experiences dissociation, they may display a sense of numbness or detachment.
Foo told Psych Central that when her dissociation is at work, her voice can become flat.
If your loved one starts interacting with you with a flat voice, or flat affect, it may be initially hard to interpret. Its helpful to ask questions about what their expression or tone may or may not indicate.
One way you can support your partner is by asking them, Hey, you sound kind of irritated. What are you experiencing right now? Is there anything I can do?
If you and your loved one have developed a rapport around symptoms, you may feel comfortable asking them directly about what a blank expression may mean. If youre still learning about how PTSD manifests for your loved one, it may take time to figure out what your communication style will be.
In any case, it helps to stay in close contact about both parties needs and expectations to show love and avoid miscommunication.
When To Seek Medical Advice
It’s normal to experience upsetting and confusing thoughts after a traumatic event, but in most people these improve naturally over a few weeks.
You should visit your GP if you or your child are still having problems about 4 weeks after the traumatic experience, or the symptoms are particularly troublesome.
Your GP will want to discuss your symptoms with you in as much detail as possible.
They’ll ask whether you have experienced a traumatic event in the recent or distant past and whether you have re-experienced the event through flashbacks or nightmares.
Your GP can refer you to mental health specialists if they feel you’d benefit from treatment.
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Things You Shouldn’t Say To Someone With Complex Ptsd
Complex post-traumatic stress disorder can be caused by a fearful event or a time when someone felt like they had to fight for their life more than once.
There are a few things that, if said to a person with C-PTSD, are more upsetting than anything. Here are some of them:
1. Get over it.
This is one thing that someone with C-PTSD hates to hear. We want to move on we dont want to be haunted by our past. If it were a switch we could flip we would, but we cant. Please dont tell us this.
2. That was so long ago.
The events we experienced may no longer be happening, but we relive them most days. The flashbacks, nightmares and daily reminders make us feel like it wasnt long ago. It may have happened a long time ago for the person who says this, but for us, its still so real.
3. Change your ways stop thinking that way.
When people tell us to change our ways, the things we do because of C-PTSD, they dont realize that this thought process or way of doing something has been drilled into our heads. We are scared of changing we are scared this will bring back the abuse and fear.
4. I dont remember it that badly.
You did not live my fears and worries. I never asked what you remember. You were not there all the time there were closed doors. I have reasons I have C-PTSD and I dont want to argue about what you remember.
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Unresolved Trauma That Affects The Closest Connections
- Feeling unsafe is one of the biggest signs of cPTSD.
- When feeling safe is compromised, hypervigilance or shutting down are common.
- Intimate relationships are often negatively impacted for those struggling with cPTSD.
- Knowing the signs and symptoms can help with healing and improving relationship quality.
Because traumatic events have the ability to shatter how we once saw the world, they become life-changing. What we experience may differ depending on the type of trauma, yet the end result is often the same: fears, triggers, emotional dysregulation, feelings of worthlessness, emotional numbness, sleep/wake issues, avoidance behaviors, and hypervigilance.
Any event that has the potential to cause trauma also has the potential to cause post-traumatic stress disorder . If these events were repeated or chronic, such as ongoing abuse in childhood, captivity, war, human trafficking, or abuse in intimate relationships, they have the potential to cause what’s known as complex PTSD, or cPTSD.
While the DSM-5 does not formally recognize cPTSD from post-traumatic stress disorder or borderline personality disorder because of some shared overlapping symptoms, there is a plethora of research since the 1980s beginning with Dr. Judith Lewis Herman that supports cPTSD as a distinct disorder. As such, the ICD-11 includes cPTSD and recognizes its symptoms as independent from BPD and PTSD.
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What To Say To Someone Who Is Struggling Emotionally
- I am here. Sometimes the holidays can be overwhelming, painful, or just packed with dizzying emotions.
- You can always talk to me. It can be incredibly painful to watch someone who means something to you struggle with inner emotions.
- You are loved / I love you.
- You matter to me.
- You are brave.
Using Fitness To Cultivate Self
Symptoms of cPTSD can be difficult to manage and may trigger feelings of shame. Its important to educate family, friends, and significant others on how to navigate through avoidance, hypervigilance, and emotionally challenging behaviors.
Those who have survived complex trauma dont need judgment. They dont need shaming. They need understanding, compassion, and time in building their lives and empowering themselves.
Facebook/LinkedIn image: Just Life/Shutterstock
Cloitre, M., et al. . Distinguishing PTSD, complex PTSD and borderline personality disorder: A latent class analysis. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 5, 110.
Herman, J. L. . Trauma and recovery. New York: BasicBooks.
Herman, J. L. . Complex ptsd: A syndrome in survivors of prolonged and repeated trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 3, 377391.
Karatzias, T., et al. . Childhood trauma, attachment orientation, and complex PTSD symptoms in a clinical sample: implications for treatment. Development and Psychopathology, 1 – 6.
van der Kolk, B. A. . The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. Viking.
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This Is How To Explain Complex Ptsd To Someone Who Doesnt Have It
My PTSD is not from war. It came from a much closer place: my childhood. This is how to explain complex PTSD to someone who doesnt have it.
I turn over towards him in the bed as he asks Sowhy do you worry so much? I tell him, same as last night, Thats kind of a loaded question. We had discussed insecurities and self-esteem and things before sex, but we hadnt really touched on the big stuff.
I have PTSD. Well, C-PTSD. Its basically the same except its not from just one thing, its from lots of things, or likebeing in a difficult situation for a long time.
Fucking hell, so whats that from, then?
JustI have an alcoholic mum, and things got really bad, like she was abusive, not physically, just verbally and emotionally. It wasnt great. Now I can get thrown back to that time pretty easily. I dont get flashbacks as su
Dont you think thats a bit extreme? Like this woman, I work with has PTSD but she was an aid worker, she helped orphans and kids whod been through acid attacks and that. Youve not been through anything like that, right? I just mean, dont you think its a bit much?
This is how to explain complex PTSD to someone who doesnt have it
Why is C-PTSD caused by childhood abuse so difficult to accept?
Fear is fear is fear
Isnt That Something Only War Veterans Get
The short answer is no. The longer answer will probably involve me telling you to stop commenting on something you dont know much about.
People get PTSD for a range of reasons. Neglect, abuse and trauma from being in combat. Just because shell-shocked soldiers are the most common association with PTSD, that doesnt mean its the only one.
Please read up on PTSD thenstill dont comment on something youre not qualified to comment on.
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Negative View Of Self
Sadly, C-PTSD may result in a negative self-image. Because of the long-term trauma, those with C-PTSD do not view themselves in a positive, healthy light.
They likely have the same emotions similar to PTSD, but may have guilt, shame, feel helpless, or feel like theyre on a completely different planet than others. This makes it hard to connect with other people as well.
Remember, just as in PTSD, you may or may not have all of the symptoms associated with C-PTSD. Its important to evaluate your symptoms and which ones appear and interfere with your life.
Stop Dwelling On Ancient History
That is top advice. Because it happened a long time ago, I should just be over it, right?
People who were abused at a young age, when they werent able to process what was happening, should just stop dwelling on it as their minds develop and they get flashbacks?
If it was as easy as going Well it happened X number of years ago so Im over it now, Im pretty sure wed all have snapped our fingers and made our problems disappear.
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Helping Someone With Ptsd Tip : Provide Social Support
Its common for people with PTSD to withdraw from family and friends. They may feel ashamed, not want to burden others, or believe that other people wont understand what theyre going through. While its important to respect your loved ones boundaries, your comfort and support can help them overcome feelings of helplessness, grief, and despair. In fact, trauma experts believe that face-to-face support from others is the most important factor in PTSD recovery.
Knowing how to best demonstrate your love and support for someone with PTSD isnt always easy. You cant force your loved one to get better, but you can play a major role in the healing process by simply spending time together.
Dont pressure your loved one into talking. It can be very difficult for people with PTSD to talk about their traumatic experiences. For some, it can even make them feel worse. Instead, let them know youre willing to listen when they want to talk, or just hang out when they dont. Comfort for someone with PTSD comes from feeling engaged and accepted by you, not necessarily from talking.
Do normal things with your loved one, things that have nothing to do with PTSD or the traumatic experience. Encourage your loved one to seek out friends, pursue hobbies that bring them pleasure, and participate in rhythmic exercise such as walking, running, swimming, or rock climbing. Take a fitness class together, go dancing, or set a regular lunch date with friends and family.
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When You Love Someone With Complex Ptsd
This article gives a brief overview of some basics about Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and what you can do to support yourself as well as nurture your relationship when you love someone with Complex PTSD. You may be wondering if reading this article will be helpful to you.
- If your partner experienced significant trauma during childhood and you find yourself in awe of all that they are in spite of what they have been through, yet uncertain at times about how to provide the right kind of support, then this article is for you.
- If you recognize the wisdom within your partner that is derived from their experiences, but struggle to access your own wisdom when you see your partner suffering then this article is for you.
- Lastly, if you sometimes see your partner as someone who would benefit from healing work but, are not sure of the right place to start then this article is for you.
This article is about how to bring your best self to your relationship by forging one that is defined by security, consistency, and honesty as well as understanding the importance of your own self-care in cultivating these bonds.
There are two areas of human development that are impacted by Complex Trauma. When these areas are impacted it can result in CPTSD. They are:
Lets look at both more closely.
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Tip : Anticipate And Manage Triggers
A trigger is anythinga person, place, thing, or situationthat reminds your loved one of the trauma and sets off a PTSD symptom, such as a flashback. Sometimes, triggers are obvious. For example, a military veteran might be triggered by seeing his combat buddies or by the loud noises that sound like gunfire. Others may take some time to identify and understand, such as hearing a song that was playing when the traumatic event happened, for example, so now that song or even others in the same musical genre are triggers. Similarly, triggers dont have to be external. Internal feelings and sensations can also trigger PTSD symptoms.
Its In The Past Just Move On
Yes, the event is in the past, but that doesnt mean I can just switch off how I feel about it like a light switch.
Everyone deals with trauma differently, and its not for anyone to tell you how you should be processing it.
The only way someone would be qualified to tell you to just move on is if they had a mind identical to yours and went through the exact same events. Which is impossible. So pipe down and leave me to process things in my own way, thanks.
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What Causes Complex Ptsd
The types of traumatic events that can cause complex PTSD include:
- childhood abuse, neglect or abandonment
- ongoing domestic violence or abuse
- repeatedly witnessing violence or abuse
- being forced or manipulated into prostitution
- torture, kidnapping or slavery
- being a prisoner of war.
You are more likely to develop complex PTSD if:
- you experienced trauma at an early age
- the trauma lasted for a long time
- escape or rescue were unlikely or impossible
- you have experienced multiple traumas
- you were harmed by someone close to you.
“Developing PTSD after experiencing domestic violence was not something I was prepared for. Physically I left my old home. Mentally I am still there. The prison is no longer that house it is my mind. My thoughts. My memories.”
Misdiagnosis with BPD
Some of the symptoms of complex PTSD are very similar to those of borderline personality disorder , and not all professionals are aware of complex PTSD.
As a result, some people are given a diagnosis of BPD or another personality disorder when complex PTSD fits their experiences more closely. Professionals disagree about when it’s helpful to diagnose someone with a personality disorder or when another diagnosis or description is better. To find out more see our page on why personality disorders are controversial?
See our pages on borderline personality disorder and personality disorders for more information on these diagnoses.
Learn About The Options For Treatment
With the right tools and awareness, you can be a remarkable source of support when caring for someone with complex PTSD, but it is still a disorder that calls for professional guidance and treatment. Long-term residential treatment programs are the best option for a recovery path that brings clients back to the life they really want to live. In these settings, experts are trained to establish a nurturing environment and be receptive to clients particular needs and triggers so they can ensure the best potentials for recovery success.
In a long-term treatment setting, clients can heal trauma as they are ready. Just as they build trust with you and the home recovery environment, they have sufficient time and space to build trusting relationships with therapist and clinicians who can offer invaluable guidance, support, and tools along the way. The extended time in the treatment setting allows the trauma to unfold gradually and progressivelyunlike in short-term settings where surface layers of trauma and triggers may be resolved temporarily, but the roots of past pain remain.
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Treatments And Management Of C
There are some treatments available for someone with C-PTSD, but it just depends on how severe the symptoms are and what symptoms are present.
A variety of medications are available to help control symptoms. Other therapies like cognitive processing therapy, holistic therapies, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing also may provide some relief.
This Is What Its Like To Have Complex Ptsd
Heart pounding, I startle awake at 4 am. I am panic-stricken and consumed with terror.
My bedroom is quiet. There are no intruders, only my faithful furry friend Winston, slumbering quietly at my feet.
I wonder if I had screamed and scared any of my children.
For 5 minutes, then 10 minutes my heart continues to pound as I lie, terrified in my darkened room. I try to decide if I should call an ambulance perhaps Im having a heart attack.
I am both afraid and confused. I know that I am safe in my room, that there is no immediate threat, but my body and emotions are hijacked, and without my consent I find myself immersed in past horrifying events.
I am forced to wait it out.
Thankfully I do know now, from more than 5 years of experience, that a panic attack will eventually pass.
It feels like its going to kill me, but it wont.
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