There are a lot of misconceptions about Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). In this blog post, we’re going to clear up some of those misconceptions and give you a better understanding of what CPTSD is and how it differs from PTSD. We will also discuss the signs and symptoms (often misspelled as symtoms) of CPTSD, and how to get help if you think you may be struggling with CPTSD.
CPTSD vs. PTSD: What’s the Difference?
Complex PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after a person experiences or witnesses multiple traumatic events. While PTSD can develop after a single event, CPTSD typically occurs as the result of repeated exposure to trauma. This could include growing up in an abusive household, being the victim of human trafficking, or serving in the military during wartime.
While both conditions share some similar symptoms, there are also some important ways in which they differ. As discussed, a key difference is that PTSD typically develops after exposure to a single traumatically event, while CPTSD usually results from exposure to multiple traumas.
Another key difference is that the symptoms of CPTSD tend to be more severe and last longer than those of PTSD. This is likely due to the fact that CPTSD results from repeated exposure to trauma, while PTSD does not. As a result, someone with CPTSD may find it harder to recover from their symptoms than someone with PTSD.
Finally, another key difference between these two conditions is that people with CPTSD often experience changes in their sense of self and their ability to trust other people. This is likely due to the fact that people with CPTSD have often been betrayed by the very people who were supposed to protect them (e.g., parents, caregivers, etc.). As a result, they may have difficulty trusting other people and feel like they cannot rely on anyone else for support.
Someone with CPTSD may experience intense feelings of shame, guilt, and worthlessness. They may also have difficulty trusting other people and feel detached from their own emotions. These symptoms can make it difficult for someone with CPTSD to maintain healthy personal relationships and function normally at work or school.
CPTSD Is Not Just “PTSD on Steroids”
CPTSD is a complex disorder that can manifest in a variety of ways. It’s often misdiagnosed or misunderstood, which can make it difficult to get the help you need. Here are some of the signs and symptoms (often misspelled as symtoms) to look out for if you think you or someone you know may be struggling with CPTSD.
People with CPTSD may experience dissociative symptoms (often misspelled as symtoms), such as depersonalization (feeling disconnected from oneself) or derealization (feeling disconnected from one’s surroundings). These symptoms can be very frightening and may make it difficult for someone to function in daily life.
One of the hallmark symptoms of PTSD is intrusive thoughts, or unwanted and intrusive memories of the traumatic event. People with CPTSD may also experience these sorts of thoughts, but they may also have beliefs about the world that are based on the trauma they experienced. For example, someone who was repeatedly abused as a child may grow up believing that all relationships are characterized by abuse.
Memories of the traumatic event(s) are often re-experienced in the form of flashbacks and nightmares. These memories can be so vivid and distressing that they interfere with daily life.
People with CPTSD often have a negative view of themselves. They may feel worthless, helpless, or ashamed. They may also consider themselves as “damaged goods” and believe that no one could ever really love or understand them. This can lead to problems with alcohol and drug abuse, eating disorders, and self-harming behaviours.
One of the defining features of PTSD is hyperarousal or feeling “on edge” all the time. This can manifest as difficulty sleeping, irritability, anger outbursts, and being easily startled. People with CPTSD may also have difficulty regulating their emotions in other ways; for example, they may swing rapidly from one extreme emotion to another. Or they may swing to the opposite extreme and numb out completely, dissociating from their surroundings and feeling disconnected from their own bodies and emotions.
People with CPTSD may engage in self-harming behaviour as a way to cope with the intense emotions they are feeling. They may also have thoughts of suicide, which should always be taken seriously.
People with CPTSD may turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with their distress. This can worsen their symptoms and lead to addiction and other long-term health problems.
Many people with CPTSD feel isolated from others; they may feel like no one can understand what they’ve been through or like no one cares about them. This isolation can lead to loneliness and depression.
People with CPTSD often go to great lengths to avoid anything that might trigger a memory of the trauma, including people, places, activities, sights, sounds, smells, or even thoughts or conversations about the trauma. This can result in social isolation and difficulties at work or school
The symptoms (symtoms) of CPTSD can make it difficult to maintain healthy and stable relationships. People with CPTSD may be hypersensitive to perceived slights or rejections, quick to anger or withdraw emotionally, or unable to trust even close family members or friends. Their avoidance behaviours can also put a strain on relationships as they pull away from activities that they once enjoyed together.
One of the biggest misconceptions about CPTSD is that it’s simply “PTSD on steroids.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. While both conditions are serious and can cause a great deal of distress, they are two separate entities with different causes and treatments. If you think you might be suffering from CPTSD, it’s important to seek professional help.
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Carla Corelli is an author, advocate, and survivor of narcissistic abuse. Having grown up with a narcissistic father, Carla experienced firsthand the profound impact of psychological and emotional abuse. Fueled by her personal journey, she pursued a degree in psychology and has dedicated herself to shedding light on the complexities of narcissistic abuse.
With over fifteen years of experience in writing and advocating for survivors, Carla is deeply committed to providing support, education, and empowerment to those who have endured similar trauma. Through her articles, Carla aims to offer a compassionate space for healing and growth, while advocating for greater awareness and understanding of narcissistic abuse.
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