10 Symptoms Of Complex PTSD

What is complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD)?

Complex PTSD is a mental illness which can make life extremely difficult. While most of us have heard of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), very few people are familiar with Complex PTSD. What differentiates these two mental illnesses is that while PTSD is brought on by a single traumatic event such as a natural disaster/car accident, Complex PTSD develops due to prolonged, repetitive trauma experienced in one’s early life (childhood – young adulthood). According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, in 1988, Dr. Judith Herman of Harvard University suggested a new diagnosis (Complex PTSD) was needed to describe the symptoms of long-term trauma. The symptoms of Complex PTSD include those of PTSD plus several additional symptoms.

What are the 10 symptoms of Complex PTSD? 

1. You never feel safe.

This symptom is common to both PTSD and Complex PTSD. Feeling hypervigilant and being on constant alert is one of the primary symptoms. You fear and feel as though you are not safe or secure – even though you logically know that there is nothing to be afraid of. Despite the awareness that your feelings and thoughts are irrational, you feel as though you are constantly in danger.

2. You cannot control your emotions.

Complex PTSD can make it difficult to manage your emotions. This means that you often have uncontrollable outbursts and feel vulnerable to negative emotions such as anger and fear. The inability to regulate your emotions can lead to disruptive, self-destructive behaviors.

3. You cannot relax or sleep.

Despite acknowledging that you feel fatigued and exhausted, you cannot relax. It is not surprising that when you feel as though you are in constant danger, your body cannot relax and your mind will not let it rest. What is more, when you manage to fall asleep, you wake up numerous times throughout the night and sleep until late. This inability to sleep makes regulating your emotions even more difficult.

4. You avoid triggers.

Another common symptom of PTSD and CPTSD is avoiding things, people, or places which trigger you. Encountering similar situations or being in the same place where your traumatic experience occurred can cause anxiety and panic. Some people’s avoidance is so intense that it prevents them from even leaving the house.

5. You dislike yourself.

Experiencing negative feelings for prolonged periods of time can drastically lower your self-esteem. You can begin to view yourself as weak as you feel as though you cannot overcome your trauma. Moreover, you may even experience shame, guilt, and self-doubt.

6. You often forget important things.

This is a consequence of dissociation. CPTSD can affect your state of consciousness and make you forget crucial events. Taking this further, you may often feel detached from your emotions, your memories, and who you are.

7. You have difficulties trusting people.

People with CPTSD tend to have issues with relationships as they do not know how to fully trust somebody. This inability to trust stems from their traumatic experiences – especially if they have been brought about by someone they initially trusted. It is important to note that others who struggle with CPTSD might look for partners who are emotionally unavailable or toxic as this is what they themselves are familiar with.

8. You are very rigid.

You have strict systems, routines, and rules in place. Furthermore, you do not like changes and you find it difficult to adapt. The reason why you enjoy having a solid, rigid system and routine is that it gives you a sense of complete control, safety, and security. In other words, it makes you feel protected.

9. You work incessantly.

Diving into your career and constantly working also makes you feel in control. In addition to this, it makes it easier for you to drown out the negative thoughts and feelings which creep up at other times.

10. You feel obsessed with your abuser.

Complex PTSD can make you fixated on your trauma and abuser. This means that people often become obsessed with the idea of getting revenge.

If you relate to the majority of the above symptoms, it is vital that you take a step back and evaluate how you are feeling. More importantly, you should consider seeking help and talking to somebody who will guide you through the thoughts and emotions which you have. The crucial thing to know is that Complex PTSD is treatable even though it might take a long time to feel as though you have regained control.

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