What Causes Complex PTSD?

by | Trauma Recovery

Most people have a basic idea of what PTSD is and what causes it. While we often think of soldiers returning from war or those who have experienced major traumatic events in life, that’s really only one aspect of PTSD. 

Other cases can be more complicated — and more complex. 

Complex PTSD (C-PTSD) is essentially PTSD with additional symptoms. Some of those symptoms include feelings of permanent damage and guilt. 

But, what causes complex PTSD? More importantly, what can you do if you’re dealing with it? 

What Is Complex PTSD? 

Complex PTSD typically occurs in people who have experienced long-lasting traumatic events. Some of the most common include: 

  • – Child abuse
  • – Ongoing domestic violence
  • – Witnessing ongoing violence or abuse

In extreme situations, prisoners of war or people who have been tortured also often experience C-PTSD. As you might have guessed, the biggest difference between complex and “regular” PTSD is the length of time someone has experienced trauma. Those who have repeatedly experienced it, like victims of abuse, are more likely to develop C-PTSD. 

Risk Factors

Some people are at a greater risk of developing C-PTSD than others. 

For example, if you’ve experienced multiple traumas in your life or you were repeatedly hurt by someone close to you, you’re more likely to develop it. 

Furthermore, it might not “show up” immediately. Children who go through months or years of abuse or neglect might not outwardly show signs of complex PTSD until later in life. Unfortunately, when those signs do come forward, they can wreak havoc on your quality of life. 

What Are the Signs of C-PTSD? 

We already touched on a few of the common symptoms of C-PTSD, but it’s important to note that they can sometimes be more intense than regular PTSD symptoms, and they tend to have a greater impact on your overall self-worth. 

C-PTSD can cause someone to feel completely worthless. You might feel like you don’t fit in anywhere and don’t belong around other people. You might even experience dissociative symptoms, often as a way to cope. 

The signs of complex PTSD can also manifest themselves physically. You might struggle with digestive issues, headaches, or chest pains. 

As you might expect, all of these symptoms can take a toll on your physical and mental well-being. They can impact your career, your friendships, your romantic relationships, and even how connected you feel to your family. 

Unfortunately, the symptoms are often part of a vicious cycle. The more you dissociate yourself from people and things, the more likely it is to struggle with anxiety and depression. Those conditions will fuel your invasive negative thoughts even more. 

Treating Complex PTSD

The most important thing you can do to start fighting back against C-PTSD is to get an official diagnosis. 

It doesn’t matter how long ago you experienced trauma. Even if something happened in your childhood, it’s never too late to get the help you deserve. 

Therapy is a common treatment option for people with both PTSD and C-PTSD, and there are various approaches shown to be quite effective. However, you’re likely to find that with C-PTSD, the therapy experience needs to last longer for it to be effective. 

It’s also important to lean on family and friends as you recover. It might feel difficult to put yourself out there and believe you deserve help from loved ones. But, when you do, it’s likely they’ll be more than happy to be a shoulder for you to lean on. 

Finally, take care of yourself. Self-care can make a big difference in how you feel and how you see yourself. When you realize that you have value and your trauma doesn’t have to define you, you’re more likely to seek out help from others. 

If you are considering seeking help and support, contact Valued Living Therapy to learn more about our trauma recovery services. 

Valued Living Therapy

We are a dynamic, trauma-informed, multi-specialty group practice of mental health professionals offering therapy in the heart of Edina, MN and online throughout Minnesota.

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