Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) is a serious and debilitating condition that can leave individuals feeling stuck, overwhelmed, and unable to move forward with their lives. It can leave those who suffer from it feeling trapped in their own minds and unable to find relief. However there is hope – CPTSD treatment is available and can be an effective way to manage its symptoms and move towards a better future.
Let’s take a look at what CPTSD is and how it is treated.
What Is CPTSD?
CPTSD is a mental health disorder that can occur after experiencing multiple traumatic events in one’s life. Unlike PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), which typically occurs after one traumatic event or experience, CPTSD develops after experiencing trauma over an extended period of time. This can include repeated physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse; living in a highly chaotic or violent home environment; or exposure to a natural disaster or war.
The Most Common Symptoms of CPTSD include:
Flashbacks and intrusive memories
Flashbacks and intrusive memories are some of the most common and distressing symptoms of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD). They can cause a person to suddenly relive the traumatic event as if it were happening again in the present, often accompanied by intense negative emotions. These memories can be triggered by anything from senses or objects to thoughts or feelings relating to the traumatic experience.
Heightened startle response and hypervigilance
Heightened startle response and hypervigilance are common symptoms of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD). The person may be easily startled by small noises or other seemingly innocuous stimuli, as they have grown to be highly sensitive to any potential threats. In addition, people with CPTSD often maintain a heightened state of alertness in order to detect and protect themselves against any potential dangers, even if none are present. This can lead to exhaustion, as the person is constantly on guard and unable to relax.
Difficulty trusting others and feeling disconnected from society
People with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) often struggle to trust others and feel disconnected from society. This is a result of their traumatic experiences, which have left them feeling unsafe and unable to open up to others. Such individuals may maintain a sense of isolation, as they become overwhelmed by the idea of interacting with people or engaging in activities that could potentially lead to further emotional trauma. Additionally, those suffering from CPTSD may find it difficult to trust professionals even when they are trying to help, leading to feelings of alienation and loneliness.
A persistent negative self-image or guilt
This is a common symptom of CPTSD, as those suffering from the condition may be unable to separate their traumatic experiences from their identity. Consequently, they may carry unfounded guilt for the events that occurred or feel inadequate about themselves and their perceived flaws. This can lead to further emotional distress, as it becomes difficult to accept oneself truly and without judgement.
Lack of control in one’s emotions or actions
Emotional dysregulation is a difficulty in recognizing, understanding and responding to emotions appropriately. It can manifest as an inability to manage strong emotional responses, excessive reactions, or an inability to experience any emotion at all. People who have experienced trauma may be more likely to struggle with emotional dysregulation, as the traumatic event may cause difficulty regulating moods and behaviours.
Self-medicating with drugs or alcohol
People who are struggling with CPTSD often turn to drugs or alcohol as a method of self-medication. This is often done in an attempt to cope with the intense, overwhelming emotions they feel as a result of their trauma. Self-medicating can be used to numb the pain or provide temporary relief from the difficulties they are facing. Unfortunately, this behavior can become addictive and further exacerbate the symptoms of CPTSD, leading to further distress and complications.
Suicidal thoughts or feelings
People struggling with PTSD can experience suicidal thoughts or feelings more frequently than people who have not had similar traumatic experiences. These thoughts or feelings can be caused by a variety of factors such as feeling overwhelmed by difficult emotions, fear of being unable to cope, and a desire to escape the current reality. It is important for those struggling with PTSD to recognize when these thoughts or feelings arise, as they can often become overwhelming and lead to self-harming behavior.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please scroll to the bottom of this post for helplines and resources that will help you.
CPTSD – The Importance of Seeking Treatment
It is important for people who have complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) to explore treatment options so they can find an effective way of managing their symptoms and leading a healthier life. Treatment for CPTSD can include psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), medications, and lifestyle modifications. Exploring different treatment options gives individuals the chance to find the best way to address their individual needs and start on a path of healing
The First Step is the Most Important One
The most important thing to remember when it comes to CPTSD treatment is that the first step is always the most important one. Even if you’re not sure what kind of help you need or how you’re going to get it, simply acknowledging that you need help and deciding to take action is a huge step in the right direction. It often takes a lot of courage and strength to acknowledge that something isn’t right and then take steps towards addressing it. By taking this first step, you are showing yourself that you are willing to invest in your own wellbeing.
Find Support That Works For You
Once you have taken this first step towards seeking treatment for your CPTSD, the next step is finding a support system that works for you. This could be anything from talking to friends and family members about how you’re feeling or joining an online support group for people with similar experiences.
This network will be a crucial source of support as you go through the initial stages of exploring which CPTSD treatment options suit you best and you try out different therapists. The initial stages of seeking treatment are bound to anxiety-provoking and having people to lean on will make all the difference.
Take Things Slow
Finally, when it comes to CPTSD treatment, it’s important not to rush yourself too much or try to do too much at once. Healing from trauma takes time and patience. Don’t be afraid to take things slow if necessary so that you can give yourself time and space for recovery without putting too much pressure on yourself.
Doing things like practicing mindfulness meditation or journaling can also be incredibly helpful during this process as well as any other activities that help foster self-care and self-compassion in your life.
CPTSD Treatment Options
Fortunately, there are many different treatment options available for individuals suffering from CPTSD. The most common form of treatment includes cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which helps individuals learn how to manage their symptoms and identify triggers so they can better cope with them in the future. Other forms of therapy such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) or dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) can also be beneficial.
Additionally, your physician might prescribe antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications in order to reduce symptoms.
CPTSD Treatment – Medication
Medication is sometimes prescribed to help individuals manage the symptoms of CPTSD.
Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can help reduce feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear.
Antipsychotic medications are also used to help regulate mood swings and control aggressive behavior.
A doctor will work with an individual to find the best medication option for their specific needs, taking into account any potential side effects.
Medication can be an effective tool for managing CPTSD, but it is important to keep in mind that it does not provide a cure and should always be taken alongside other forms of treatment such as therapy or support groups.
CPTSD Treatment – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that helps individuals recognize thoughts and underlying beliefs that are causing or contributing to their current psychological difficulties.
CBT is widely used to help individuals struggling with CPTSD as it can be an effective tool in addressing the underlying causes of their symptoms, such as distorted belief systems or lack of emotional regulation. Through CBT, individuals learn how to identify negative or irrational thoughts and how to challenge them effectively, which can then help reduce feelings of distress and empower them to take control over their psychological health.
Furthermore, CBT helps individuals develop coping skills and mindfulness techniques that can help manage the symptoms associated with CPTSD.
CPTSD Treatment – Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is a form of cognitive-behavioural therapy that focuses on helping individuals regulate and manage their emotions in a healthy manner. DBT is especially effective for treating CPTSD, as it helps individuals recognize their triggers and unhealthy behaviours, understand their own emotional states, develop new coping skills, and practice mindfulness techniques.
Through this type of therapy, individuals are also able to learn how to respond more effectively in challenging situations rather than automatically reacting with intense emotion. With the guidance of a therapist, individuals can use DBT to overcome certain negative behaviours associated with CPTSD and gain better insight into their own needs and feelings.
CPTSD Treatment – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an evidence-based form of psychotherapy that helps individuals process and move past traumatic memories. This type of therapy uses bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements or sound pulses, to help the individual access traumatic memories and reprocess them in a safe environment.
During EMDR sessions, individuals can work through unresolved issues and relieve symptoms associated with CPTSD, such as anxiety and mood swings.
EMDR helps individuals gain a new perspective on their traumatic experiences, which can lead to increased self-awareness and improved emotional regulation. By having access to a safe therapeutic environment and the guidance of a therapist, individuals can start the healing process and take steps towards managing their CPTSD more effectively.
CPTSD Treatment – Lifestyle Changes and Self-Care Practices
In addition to professional treatment options, there are also self-care practices that can help individuals manage the symptoms of CPTSD more effectively on a day-to-day basis.
These practices include mindfulness exercises such as meditation or yoga; journaling about thoughts and feelings; engaging in creative activities like painting or drawing; connecting with supportive friends or family members; getting regular exercise; eating healthy foods; and getting enough sleep every night.
While these practices are not substitutes for professional help, they can provide relief from daily stressors and help individuals cope more effectively with their symptoms over time.
Taking the first steps towards seeking help for complex PTSD is an important step towards healing and finding hope again after experiencing trauma. A combination of professional treatment options such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), medication if necessary, and self-care practices such as mindful activities or journaling can all play an important role in helping individuals on their path to recovery from CPTSD.
Finding a supportive network who understands what you’re going through—whether they are friends or professionals—is key when managing complex post traumatic stress disorder; but just as importantly make sure not too push yourself too hard – remember healing takes time and patience.
Important information for anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts
If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please act immediately. Contact a mental health professional or call a suicide hotline in your area.
In the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, as well as prevention and crisis resources.
You can call the Lifeline at +1 800 273 8255. They also have a chat function on their website that you can use if you do not feel like talking.
In Canada, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention provides resources and support to those affected by suicide.
In the United Kingdom you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Helpline or call them on 0800 689 5652.
If you are in another country, please visit this page for a list of international suicide hotlines.