Therapy for Trauma, PTSD, cPTSD
Most people will experience trauma in their lifetime whether it’s a car accident, abuse or neglect, the sudden death of a loved one, a violent criminal act, exposure to the violence of war, or a natural disaster.
While some people can recover from trauma over time with the love and support of family and friends and bounce back with resiliency, others may discover the effects of lasting trauma, which can cause a person to live with deep emotional pain, fear, confusion, or posttraumatic stress far after the event has passed.
In these circumstances, the support, guidance, and assistance of a trauma therapist are fundamental to healing.
According to the four types of symptoms listed in the
- Avoiding specific locations, sights, situations, and sounds that serve as reminders of the event
- Anxiety, depression, numbness, or guilt
- Intrusive thoughts, nightmares, or flashbacks
- Anger, irritability, and hypervigilance
- Aggressive, reckless behavior, including self-harm
- Sleep disturbances
Negative Mood and Cognition Symptoms
- Loss of interest in activities that were once considered enjoyable
- Difficulty remembering details of the distressing event
- Change in habits or behavior since the trauma
Posttraumatic stress disorder – also known as PTSD – is a mental health challenge that may occur in individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a terrorist act, an act of war, a serious accident, rape, or any other violent personal assault.
What are the Symptoms of PTSD?
People with PTSD often experience intense thoughts and feelings related to their traumatic experiences. These can last for a long time after the initial event. Many people with PTSD also relive the event through flashbacks and nightmares.
People with PTSD often feel intense emotions such as fear, anger, sadness, and detachment from friends, family, and community members. They often avoid people and situations that remind them of the traumatic event. Ordinary sounds or incidents such as a door banging or accidental touch in a crowd may cause a strong and uncontrollable reaction.
(Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
On the surface, it may seem like PTSD and Complex PTSD are one in the same. They both come as the result of something deeply traumatic, they cause flashbacks, nightmares and insomnia, and they can make people live in fear even when they are safe. But at the very heart of C-PTSD – what causes it, how it manifests internally, the lifelong effects (including medically), and its ability to reshape a person’s entire outlook on life – is what makes it considerably different.
Complex PTSD comes in response to chronic traumatization over the course of months or, more often, years. This can include:
- verbal, emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuses
- domestic violence or repeatedly witnessing violence or abuse
- traumatic loss of a parent/caregiver
- moving between foster homes
- living in a war zone
- being held captive
- human trafficking and other organized rings of abuse
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.
When an adult experiences a traumatic event, they have more tools to understand what is happening to them, their place as a victim of that trauma, and know they should seek support even if they don’t want to. Children don’t possess most of these skills, or even the ability to separate themselves from another’s unconscionable actions.
The psychological and developmental implications of that become complexly woven and spun into who that child believes themselves to be — creating a messy web of core beliefs much harder to untangle than the flashbacks, nightmares and other posttraumatic symptoms that come later.
Another important thing to know is that the trauma to children resulting in C-PTSD (as well as dissociative disorders) is usually deeply interpersonal within that child’s caregiving system. Separate from both the traumatic events and the perpetrator, there is often an added component of neglect, hot-and-cold affections from a primary caregiver, or outright invalidation of the trauma if a child does try to speak up.
These disorganized attachments and mixed messages from those who are supposed to provide love, comfort and safety – all in the periphery of extreme trauma – can create even more unique struggles that PTSD-sufferers alone don’t always face.
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.
Symptoms of cPTSD can overlap with symptoms of PTSD, but can also include:
- difficulty with emotion regulation
- feeling very angry or distrustful towards the world
- constant feelings of emptiness or hopelessness
- feeling as if you are permanently damaged or worthless
- feeling as if you are completely different to other people
- feeling like nobody can understand what happened to you
- avoiding friendships and relationships, or finding them very difficult
- often experiencing dissociative symptoms such as depersonalisation or derealisation
- physical symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, chest pains and stomach aches
- regular suicidal feelings.
You may notice that some of these symptoms can also resemble other mental health disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder, anxiety, dissociative disorders, or reactive attachment disorder and oppositional defiant disorder (children).
Because of this it is important to work with a therapist who is trained in identifying cPTSD so that you receive care and treatment that addresses the source of your symptoms.
If you or someone you know matches the trauma symptoms listed above, I am confident that I can support your healing with a safe, sustainable treatment plan and invite you to contact me today.