Complex PTSD

With all the talk about the DSM 5 revisions, I’ve been disappointed to not see anything about Complex Post Traumatic Stress. There has been conversation about the need for this type of additional trauma-related diagnosis for quite a while.  Bessel van der Kolk, MD uses the term Developmental Trauma Disorder to refer to a similar constellation of symptoms and etiology:

The traumatic stress field has adopted the term “Complex Trauma”to describe the experience of multiple and/or chronic and prolonged, developmentally adverse traumatic events, most often of an interpersonal nature (e.g., sexual or physical abuse, war, community violence) and early-life onset.

In my ideal world there would be a complete re-categorization of many diagnoses as falling under a trauma disorders (or better yet, trauma responses or reactions) umbrella. Many survivors of complex trauma meet the criteria for other diagnostic categories as well, including depression, substance abuse and dependence, eating disorders, dissociative disorders and of course borderline personality disorder. More information on current trauma-related diagnoses.

Dr. van der Kolk, MD makes the case for the need for an additional trauma diagnosis, stating:

While PTSD is a good definition for acute trauma in adults, it doesn’t apply well to children, who are often traumatized in the context of relationships,” says Boston University Medical Center psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk, MD, one of the group’s co-leaders. “Because children’s brains are still developing, trauma has a much more pervasive and long-range influence on their self-concept, on their sense of the world and on their ability to regulate themselves.

The inclusion in the DSM-V of a Developmental Trauma Disorder may still under discussion. The DSM notwithstanding, many trauma therapists already conceptualize complex trauma as different from simple PTSD. Not that there is anything simple about coping with even one traumatic event!

Dr. Gold presented the proposed diagnostic criteria at the workshop I previously wrote about, Contextual Therapy:Treating Survivors of Complex Trauma. There are elements found in complex trauma not fully captured by the current PTSD diagnosis, namely the experience of  captivity (for example, young children typically have no resources for escaping ongoing abuse by parents), the loss of a sense of safety, trust, self-worth and the loss of (or failure to develop) a coherent sense of self.

Diagnostic Criteria for Complex PTSD

History of prolonged subjugation resulting in alterations in

  • Affect Regulation (impulsive acting out)
  • Consciousness (dissociation)
  • Self-perception (shame, helplessness)
  • Perceptions of Perpetrator (preoccupation which may take the form of fear/sadness or identifying with and defending)
  • Relations with others (isolation, search for rescuer, revictimization)
  • Systems of Meaning (hopelessness)

I think it is really crucial to understand  that all of the above are the natural, understandable result of repeated, prolonged trauma at the hands of trusted caretakers. I have already addressed shame and complicated relationship issues in the aftermath of trauma. I plan to write more about the other criteria and how they show up in daily life and/or therapy in future blog posts.

Kathleen Young, Psy.D.

 

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72 Responses to Complex PTSD

  1. sojourner5 says:

    The proposed changes sound interesting and I agree that ongoing trauma at a young age has more pervasive effects than adult onset trauma. I’ve overcome many of those symptoms of complex PTSD with years of therapy, support and prayer. This should help professionals identify and treat complex trauma survivors.

    • Thanks for commenting!

      It is always important for others to hear that healing is possible!

    • Anonymous says:

      As an individual who suffers from CPTSD I’m disappointed that this ‘specific’ condition has been left out of the DSM. It is not the equivalent of PTSD. It may be differentiated from other disorders in many ways, but in one of the primary ways, is in it’s COMPLEX nature which is problematic for the DSM “powers that be” who aim for “neat and tidy” categories and distinct criteria that lack in ambiguity.
      In my case, I suffered multiple major traumas as a child and came close to death more than once. I was raped by multiple men, raised by a sociopathic borderline mother and had an incestuous relationship with my father. Trauma therapy has been extremely healing for me, however, unraveling the various traumas have been extremely challenging for both myself and my therapist. Given the extent of childhood abuse, my therapist says I should have multiple personality disorder. It’s amazing I haven’t attempted suicide by now. To some how equate my pain and suffering to a veteran of war or a witness to a horrible traffic accident, etcetera is invalidating. Pain is pain, so I would in no way suggest that others have not greatly suffered in their own ways.

      However Complex PTSD, is not the same in its etiology, development, life long consequences (emotionally, physiologically, spiritually) as PTSD proper, since the evolving effects of childhood abuse and neglect are felt close to the time of birth until death. While I respect the work of Bessel der Kolk, his suggested use of the term Developmental Trauma Disorder, I fear will make awareness of this serious condition even less visible and more invalidating to people like myself. Most people cannot relate nor believe I experienced the horrors of my childhood – to refer to this experience as ‘developmental’ does not fully capture the complexity of the phenomenon – it’s sources or multiple manifestations in terms of psychopathology -borderline, NOS dissociative, DID, etc. It is not a ‘developmental’ child trauma condition (as if trapped in childhood time), it’s a life long condition. It’s important that we acknowledge the disorders we label come with a “power politics” which either relatively legitimates or delegitimates an individual’s lived experience or life history. Unfortunately, I have found that doctors, in general, are relatively ‘ignorant’ about CPTSD and it’s treatment. Although, perhaps not intentionally, I have been subject to the most judgmental comments and treatment by these so called professionals. A widespread campaign at education is necessary, I believe aimed fore mostly at health care providers, however labeling my experience ‘developmental trauma disorder’ will aid in this cause. If a doctor would be told that I have, ‘developmental trauma disorder’, I have no doubt the doctor’s response would be ‘oh’, followed by a clearing of the throat.

  2. Susan says:

    I’m glad to see more being written about this and look forward to your next posts.

    • Thanks Susan! Glad to have you reading :)

      • Susan says:

        It is difficult to find the help one needs in order to recover from c-ptsd. Many years of counselling has not proved adequate and now I am half way through the 30 sessions that I have been offered through mental health services. I seems in no way adequate and I have so many questions to ask. I am suffering this week after the psychotherapist’s interpretations have completely missed the mark and made me feel worse. I am exhausted with this illness.

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  6. Allan LaCroix says:

    Complex PTSD needs to be given more attention and taken much more seriously. My childhood was filled with repeated trauma(s) that have messed me up. DSM lacks credibility if they can’t get it that this one needs inclusion. Really, really, sad.

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  12. kiyacat says:

    It is all complicated, certainly. I am in a position where even my (5th) therapist is confused on what to do since “none of her tools work” for me. She wants me to see a DID specialist, but there does not seem to be one in the Pacific NorthWest that we can find. I also do not believe that 60 min a week is very helpful when dealing with complex ptsd/ DID/MPD. I am tired of being passed from person to person because I am “too complicated”. It only increases the sense of isolation as well as the fear that I am “beyond repair”. Any chance any experts in this field can pay the West a visit? We need you out here.

    • kiyacat-

      I really get what you are saying about the feeling of isolation when even those the field do not seem to get complex PTSD issues and treatment!

      Have you checked the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation therapist directory? How awful that you are having trouble finding someone in the PNW!

  13. kiyacat says:

    No – i’ve not seen that directory; I’ll go check it out now -and thanks for the suggestion!
    kiyacat

  14. nina says:

    Is there ever any considering given to multiple traumas?

    say a family divorce when you’re a kid, followed a while later by pet or family member deaths

    then perhaps experiencing an abusive relationship in your early dating years

    then being bullied in the workplace

    any one of these can be traumatic – does experiencing a series of events over time make the trauma complex?

  15. Gilbert Satchell says:

    Dear Dr. Young…you have stimulated the Wow factor within me…someone understands, I realize you aren’t the only one out there but you are the first I’ve encountered…I have given up on “white-coats” but will be following your blog here just because it’s nice to read the words/works of someone that thinks! On the lighter side, have they started to clone you yet? Just a poor joke to get me through this fresh awareness, it can make one feel uncomfortable you know. I wish you Peace and Health,
    Gilbert

  16. Glenda says:

    I suffered sexual and physical abuse and torture by my mother for the first 15 years of my life. Sexual abuse by my father for many years,. Sexually abused by a stranger at the age of 10 coming home from school. Raped and sexually abused several times by my treating psychiatrist whilst an in-patient in a psychiatric hospital on my first admission. I have suffered with major depression and I suspect, complex PTSD for the past 18 years. I am now 56 yo. I have spent a total of nearly 4 years i psych hospitals, suffered psychosis, dissociation, suicide attempts and suicidality, self-mutilation, voices, shame, fear of being raped, extreme loneliness and I have a feel hopelessness regarding ever recovering from these traumas. However, after 18 years of extensive medication, ECT, surgeries and hospitalisation, I have found psycho-therapy with a therapist who has shown me care, time, kindness and compassion for the past 9 years, has helped me more than any of these treatments. However, the thought of her not being here to help me for the remainder of my life is too difficult for me to contemplate

    • Glenda-

      I am honored that you are sharing some of your story here. I am so very saddened to hear all you have endured but incredibly glad that you have now found a therapist who is a good fit and helpful to you!

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  21. Jaliya says:

    Thanks, Kathleen, for being another wise voice in all matters traumatic … I, as a person who has lived though severe traumas and as a former therapist (I am presently recouping from a long illness), agree that C-PTSD needs to be authenticated as a diagnosis … How strange a time we live in, when the DSM powers-that-be want to remove Narcissistic personality disorder from the manual’s next edition (narcissism now tending towards the norm), while they kvetch about inclusion of C-PTSD and Developmental trauma disorder. I wonder if any people who have the wisdom of long experience are being consulted …

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  24. erica muhan says:

    i am an occupational therapist and i have been diagnosed with complex ptsd, and i have been suffering from it for a period of time now, since i had my break down i lost every skill i had,,,but i went back to writing and painting, and re studying OT and training myself to become a better therapist,,they are opening a new center for ptsd clients that i will be working at in a few months, and i would love to learn more about this for me and for my future clients,,,,at times i feel im completely out of the world, and other times i feel waves of sadness fear and shame hitting me,,,,its not easy specially when i go feeling lost , and looking at my self working and living from behind a glass wall,,,thank you for this,,i was shocked that they arent putting the diagnosis in the dsm5 though my fellow therapists told me that they are going to

  25. Dottie says:

    I am just beginning researching this topic. My daughter appears to be suffering from complex PTSD instead of simple PTSD as she has been diagnosed. She lived with her father for awhile, we are divorced, and has suffered many years of sexual, physical, and mental abuse at his hands. She is now back with me and is exhibiting signs of disassociation, etc. I don’t think there is a symptom listed that she does nto show signs of.

    I have looked into EMDR therapy for her and was wondering if anyone has tried this and if they have, if it was actually helpful in their recovery? My husband and I are trying tirelessly to get her some relief, we know it will take many years, but her life is almost completely crippled at this point.

  26. sadgirl says:

    It saddens me so greatly that one of the results of exposure to / experiencing repetitive trauma is re-victimisation – as some posts above demonstrate. I also suffer from Complex Trauma Disorder and it takes a conscious effort every day to manage my reactions to limit re-exposure to similar types of trauma … what those who suffer repeat trauma need is a truly kind, sympathetic, reliable, selfless, trained therapist … but there are predators in the world seeking people like us, vulnerable and sensitized … and a lack of trust makes it hard to collaborate towards healing with even the most worthy therapist. My advice: deep within you, beneath all of your pain and humiliation, is a calm quiet place. Look for that place within, and then trust it to guide you to the right person. Do whatever it takes to enhance your calm, so that you can find that internal resource. We DO still have a radar for trouble – just take notice again!

  27. padschicago says:

    Excellent post! I agree that Complex PTSD should be in the DSM. I was diagnosed with PTSD several years ago and it is often misunderstood. It is often hard to find a good therapist who understands such issues. I wish there were more like you. Thank you for this post.

    • Thank you for your kind words.

      I write in part to help other professionals learn more about complex trauma. I certainly agree we need much more awareness and education around this still!

  28. Anonymous says:

    i’ve been struggling with complex ptsd for many years. Since 2005/2006, I have a therapist that believes in this theory and ACT therapy has been helping. I thought I was cured of this complex ptsd, but lately I have been having nightmares, pains in my body last for up to a day or two (the pains are consistant with the abuse that happened in the past and is relieved in my nightmares), dissociation, and isolation. I would like to know feedback on treatment of this.

    I have been told by many doctors, therapists, psychitrists, and psychologists that I will always have PTSD. I have only found one person willing to help with complex ptsd. I am starting to feel angry that I have to live with the consiquences of someones distructive behaviors. I am starting to feel like their is little hope of ever having this cptsd to stop.

    I would like to know the length of therapy that is expected for Cptsd.
    I wish I could feel normal again and not relieve tramatic events, have issues with relationships, abandoment issues, and mental health issues.

    In 2009, I was diagnosed with PTSD & MDD w/Pscychosis. My psychosis was me reliving the past and thinking everyone was helping my x-husband (a sex offender, rapist, and batter) gain custody of my daughter. I am afraid that I will not live a simi-normal life.

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  30. zora says:

    Chronic PTSD is a real disease, like diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, etc.This is why we should take it seriously and treat it. It is a long-time consuming and one should get really involved and committed to the tharapy process.

  31. My 9 year old was adopted from Russia at 2.3 years. She was tied to the crib until 19 months, supposedly in an effort to keep her legs from becoming malformed due to severe rickets. At about age 5, she began tying up her stuffed animals, drawing pictures of animals tied/caged, etc. She also began mistreating our pets (dogs, cats) even though she loves them dearly. Now at 9, we discovered that she is playing with dead animals she finds outside (leftovers from our two cats) and even snuck a dead chipmunk into the basement playroom and kept it in a basement refrigerator that we rarely use. She froze it/thawed it in order to make it take the shape that she wanted and played with it in her dollhouse. In addition, she has terrible problems with control, authority, and trust. She is attached but not in a healthy, safe way. Just the other day, her therapist, who works almost exclusively with post-institutionalized kids, explained to me the concept of complex PTSD. I do believe it fits our daughter to the tee. She doesn’t have RAD – she is attached (tho insecurely) and is quite aware of her problems and wants help – but it isn’t simple PTSD either. It affects everything she does – school, peer relations (she is way to controlling for genuine friendships to emerge), home life – everything.

    We told her last year, in therapy, that she had been tied up when she was in the orphanage. We are doing our best – with lots of support, to help her integrate and live with this knowledge. I do believe her early institutionalized experiences have altered the way her brain developed. She is such a magnificent, wonderfully resilient child in so many ways but I do fear that she will have lifelong struggles.

    Thank you for bringing some much needed attention to this kind of long-term trauma. Mary

  32. hurting and withdrawing says:

    I sit here as I write this in crisis or the verge of. I guess white knuckling life applies to me right now. It makes me angry that there may be no differentciation between the ptsd and c-ptsd. I am a victom of significant continous childhood trauma and the saddest thing is, what has (I think) fully opened up my pandoras box is truly and deeply falling in love. What should be one of the happiest things in a persons life is really messing me up. A couple of years c-ptsd was suggestas a diagnosis and it fits like a glove. I’m in my 40’s and been in therapy since my teens and this subject needs more attention from the powers that be. Thank you Kathleen!

    • Hurting says:

      Update,
      I’m freaking b/c it looks like, in the very near future, I will be involved in the process of having the man who has damaged me, my Mum and 2 sister’s (one sister committed suicide) hopefully declared insane. After a 30 day psych assessment we (family members) will have to be there before a judge to see if he is declared insane and committed. If he is not, for safety reasons, I will have to move and so will my Mum. I am terrified of having to be there in the same room with him at the court. (I asked if I can wear ear plugs and was told yes). I don’t know how I am going to get through this. I have to talk to strangers about all that went on and is going on which is messing me up more. It’s like I am a kid again. I’m finding out stuff I didn’t know and I don’t wanna know! It just never ends and I am so scared.

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  34. Wills says:

    I’m seconding the question posted by Nina, above. Can several consecutive but unrelated traumas in a person’s life lead to Complex PTSD?

    ie: bullied at work followed by being fired followed by cargiving for a dying relative followed by debilitating personal injury, the death of another family member and estrangement from family?

    At this point in my life I find I am sort of empty of reserves for dealing with stress, for lack of a better term. I am at a point where any stressful event brings on a full blown anxiety attack and makes me rehash my past experiences over and over again in my head. Right now we are involved in the purchase of a home and I should be excited but I just feel suffocated and panicked.

    Thoughts?

    • Hi Wills-

      In this article I was defining Complex PTSD as similar to Developmental Trauma with the emphasis on onset in childhood, with prolonged abuse and/or neglect in the context of important relationships.

      With that said, everyone’s own experience matters, and if you feel traumatized and overwhelmed you deserve help with that!

  35. Confused says:

    Dr. Young,
    Looking for information on how to rule out diagnostic criteria – the difference between CPTSD and BPD.
    I strongly agree with the developmental aspect of this and how individuals are impacted based on the timing of their abuse, length of abuse, and the age in development.
    My gut doesn’t lend me to a PD on any level but the struggles can fall in the chronic PD concerns of view of self. Just left a domestic violent marriage -15 years- (Emotional and Sexual Abuse) which I believe continued the progression or impacted the ability to heal and work through some issues. Now that I am in a safe place, continue to function fairly well, I still struggle with the endless depression, anhedonia, chronic suicidal thinking (ebbs/flows), abandonment fears, lack eye contact, flashbacks, unable to sleep well, and struggle with the internal piece of “bad”, unloveable/unlikeable. The piece that is pushing it more towards PD is a previous ED in college and then I started to injure after the age of 35 as a result of my ex sexual assult which triggered an adolescent rape and lasted for about 6 months with 1-5 times over the last two years. The positive is that my overall functioning is pretty good considering what I have just left. Completed grad school, have beautiful children, strong and external family unit. Longevity of work and frienships. Participated in counseling, emdr, support groups and equine therapy and have come very far but the internal battle continues to wage war in my head.

    I can’t find any literature that focuses on diagnositc criteria. I have found tons of material on overlaps and why it would be more like CPTSD but nothing clear that helps say rule out to PD.

    Thoughts?
    Confused

    • It makes sense that you are confused because it is confusing.

      I don’t know that you will find diagnostic criteria or ways to rule out CPTSD versus borderline personality disorder partly because CPTSD has not been accepted as a formal diagnosis. I do list the criteria proposed by Dr. Strephen Gold in this post. In addition, the clinicians and researchers who are talking about CPTSD are likely to see BPD as an example of CPTSD, not different.

  36. chris says:

    The emphasis needs to be taken away from placing a label on a person who has been affected by abuse to trying to cite the abuser as the abnormal person who needs treatment to block the damage his or her behaviour causes to many other people. Attempts to address the escalating incidents of violence in society and the affects on women and children, in particular, as the one’s who bear the burden of another’s disordered character are vital. The final insult is entering treatment and being abused by supposed professionals. Verbal, sexual, emotional and physical abuse and gross neglect are endemic among psychiatrists, in particular. When their colleagues deny the truth and lie to cover for the wrongs of their peers they are repeating exactly the same pattern of abuse, silence, denial and scapegoating of the victim that sent many patients into treatment. Talk about a crazy-making profession. Firm safe boundaries and respectful treatment must be mandatory among physicians with instant dismissal for those who flaunt the code of ethics. Instead, an elite group of emotionally challenged individuals are behaving like gods and not only avoiding detection, but charging inflated fees for maltreatment. Patients deserve empathy and therapy not authoritarian control and abuse, mystification, sarcasm, aloofness, incessant put-downs and poorly monitored pills. Complex PTSD is exacerbated by poor treatment and only a healing relationship that induces trust through active listening, sage advice and therapeutic steps to minimise self-harm, stabilise emotions and provide a secure sense of attachment will work.

  37. Lara R. says:

    I’ve been in therapy off and on for 25+ years. I’m in my 30’s now. I also went through years of sexual abuse in my home as a child and was them raped again by various boyfriends as a teenager. I have extreme trust issues in relationships which ultimately ends up destroying the relationships I have. This leads to more isolation and fear. I want to know when CPTSD is going to become a formal diagnosis so that I can get the proper treatment that I need. None of my therapists or doctors believe there is a difference. Some of them haven’t even heard of complex PTSD. I have been suicidal off and on and feel re victemized by my therapists due to the way patronize me when I’ve brought up CPTSD to them. How close are we to having CPTSD as a formal diagnosis? In New Hampshire.

  38. Dena says:

    I myself have been struggling with this very same issue for several years. I’m honored to see that Dr.Young has posted this condition and knowing we all need help with this and every place we go into does need to realize ACTION need to be taken the sooner the better. DONT LET US SUFFER ANYMORE.

  39. agirl says:

    I thought I had BPD but a counselor said I have PTSD. It didn’t seem to fit, but this is the first time I read about complex PTSD and it does fit me well, except for shame, I’m too attractive for my own good so I tend to be rather snooty, lol. Now I’m confused though because I read that complex PTSD can result in compulsive sexual behavior. I always thought that was just a hobby/fun thing to do, and a part of who I am, but if its just part of the PTSD then who am I after all? Scary. Mine came from childhood abuse and got much worse after attempting to raise 3 boys, 2 of which have autism. I ended up with a nervous breakdown and had to throw in the towel. They have been being cared for by others for 18 months or so, I’ve been worse ever since that loss. Interestingly, visiting them only makes me worse, so I avoid visiting and people hate me for that. I’m always paranoid, afraid of men, short tempered, promiscuous, partying, escorting, but atleast not suicidal anymore. I don’t know what my point is anymore, lol. I want to try therapy but every time I want to start I don’t….

    • I appreciate your comment and am glad if this post shed any light on your experience. I strongly encourage you to start (and stick with) therapy with a therapist trained in complex trauma. Best wishes to you.

  40. Anonymous says:

    After years of being misdiagnosed with Bipolar II, then BPD, the best therapist I’d ever had thought I had PTSD and that I probably wasn’t Bipolar at all. Unfortunately, he finished his residency almost a year ago and just as I was finally beginning to talk about my past trauma, I was switched to another resident, who refused to believe I had PTSD. She thought I had BPD, and my therapy with her was disastrous. It’s a very long and confusing story, but the final result was that I was forced to stop taking the benzo that I credit with saving my life for the last twenty years and I became more unstable than ever. I stopped seeing her five months ago and have yet to find another therapist. I am not on meds and after reading CPTSD for the first time recently, I fully believe that I suffer from it. I feel more fragile than ever. I cry easily and get offended by the people I love the most. Where can I find help for a diagnosis that isn’t even officially recognized and how can I make those close to me understand my illness? Also, which meds are the most helpful for this disorder, if any? I have never felt so misunderstood and helpless as I do now. I didn’t misuse the benzo, but I had been dependent on it for nearly twenty years. I realize it didn’t solve the real problem, but it helped me lead a fairly normal life. Now it’s difficult to be around anyone in public. The flashbacks and insomnia are horrible, and all of the symptoms that the benzo had masked have been exposed again, and now I am always in “combat mode”, always waiting and fearing when the next “attack” will strike. I have contacted my former therapist, but he is not able to see me and was the only one, so far, who even acknowledged what was wrong with me. I am grieving the end of that relationship so much because I believe that things were slowly getting better. Now I have regressed considerably and feel like this is never going to go away. At the same time, I feel like I was never closer to the truth and to being able to open up about my trauma. This is causing alot of negative behavior. Could this actually mean that I might be starting to heal after all? Sorry this is so long and confusing. This is how my thinking pattern is most of the time…everywhere!

    • Becky says:

      I too have had trouble finding a good therapist. Try going to a social worker ( MSW) rather than doctor. For some reason, it seems to me that social workers are often nicer, more caring people than doctors. Of course there are nice doctors too, but they are harder to find in my experience. Don’t give up on your search to find the right therapist and certainly dont give up on your ability to heal. From one survivor to another, I know you can do it. All the best.

      • Hey, some of us psychologists are caring too. :)

        I think even more important than the degree (though a degree and license is important!) is a therapist with expertise in treating the type of trauma (and any other issues) you have experienced.

        Thanks for giving other survivors encouragement that it is possible, Becky.

  41. Anne Franklin says:

    My PTSD happened when I was a todler. I also had ongoing trama of many different forms. i’m 59 and have just been diagnosed with PTSD for the first time. Having no memory of NOT having it, I just have no idea of what is me and what is PTSD, or is there even a ME in there somewhere?

    • Hi Anne-

      I get how hard it is to imagine a “you” separate from your PTSD symptoms when you have been living with them that long. Check out my post about healing from Complex PTSD for more information and hope.

      Best to you.

  42. Anonymous says:

    I have been misdiagnosed for 30 years I had a recent set of traumas and found COMPLEX PTSD . and felt like someone was writing about me. Thank you.
    A LONG TIME SUFFERER and despreate for some peace still now.
    Thank you If you need a study patient I am willing, 30 years of abuse and
    still lokking for a resolve.

    • I am so glad that you are finally finding a way to think about and understand your experiences that makes sense for you! Maybe your new understanding will help you find a therapist who knows about complex trauma too. We are definitely out there! :)

      Check out the resources on the blog sidebar for ideas about how to search for trauma therapists.

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  45. Sharon Ink. says:

    I am 20 yrs. old and suffering from CPTSD. My three sisters also suffer from it, and my mother is very, very mentally ill (yet to be determined) as well. My illness makes it impossible for me to obtain a job muchless cope with normal everyday tasks, and my family, as they are sick themselves, offers no support, financial or otherwise. I have only felt truly happy and safe in lock-down facilities such as juvenile detention, Fairfax Childeren’s Psych Ward, rehab, and did best at an intensive therapy lockdown program in UT for 2 yrs. Unfortunately, you can’t stay there past 18. All my doctors try to treat me for bipolar and depression, despite the fact that I insist my CPTSD is urgent priority. I am DESPERATE for help, I need a treatment facility for adults that provides care specifically for CPTSD patients. Please help me, I have exhibited these symptoms of trauma and lived in constant crisis since I was 4 years old, my life has been hell and I desperately need help.

    • Hi Sharon-

      I am sorry you are having a hard time finding help. You are not alone. That is why I created the list of resources on the side of my blog over there ——->

      You can read more about searching for a trauma-informed therapist here.

  46. Kashley says:

    It’s relieving to see this criteria, because I’ve known that I fit into some of a PTSD diagnosis, but not completely. But I see myself in every single aspect of the criteria you listed here (and, ironically, I also feel guilty for it for some reason). My therapist avoids labels and diagnoses, which I mostly appreciate, but sometimes it does help to be able to put a name to all of the chaos. Instead of thinking that I’m making everything up, I can see that it’s actually expected with my history. I do have a question, though. I’m really hesitant to ask this.. I know I don’t have DID, but when I get dissociative and kind of “stuck” within myself, I feel like there are many different parts of me (well, I feel this all the time, but sometimes I hear those parts talking when I dissociate, and it’s not just thoughts in my head). I know I’m not DID because I’ve never completely switched and I’ve only ever really lost time two or three times. I know you can’t say much since you don’t know me, but I was just wondering if this is normal – as in, normal for dissociation that is on the higher end of the spectrum. It’s completely fine if you can’t or choose not to answer.

    Anyway, thank you for this post. It’s validating to see that maybe I’m not completely crazy. :)

    • Hi Kashley-

      I am glad to hear that this post was helpful to you. One reason I write about these topics is to help people realize they are not alone; even things that feel “crazy” are actually pretty common reactions to trauma.

      I also appreciate that you understand the limitations of a blog such as this. It is not the same thing as knowing someone in the context of a clinical setting. That being said, many trauma survivors experience symptoms of dissociation along a spectrum, even those that do not meet all the criteria for DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder). Even without focusing on specific diagnostic categories, I think exactly what you describe above would be a great conversation to have with your therapist if you have not done so already.

  47. Bushbaby says:

    Can emotional numbness be a part of PTSD? I’ve been emotionally numb for many years and I know I’ve been through many traumatic experiences and in wondering if it’s related. I told a psychologist about this numbness when I was a teenager but got no response so I just kept it to myself… And now 15 or so years later it’s still persistantly there. I don’t know how to get my feelings back. Recently I saw a therapist about this and she says I may have PTSD. I think I do dissociate a lot in addition to having numbness… And sometimes I do have panick attacks. Anyway this therapist can not help me since she does not work with PTSD. How do you help clients come back from emotional numbness?

  48. kAT says:

    It’s good to see the beast given a name….It’s good to see yourself described on these pages.

  49. Pingback: Reader Question: Treating Emotional Numbness | Dr. Kathleen Young: Treating Trauma in Tucson

  50. Pingback: Private Practice Update | Dr. Kathleen Young: Treating Trauma in Tucson

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