When a child experiences neglect, anxiety, or danger repeatedly in a close relationship, that child often grows up with a sense that they are not okay. Psychology has a name for the long-term, consistent type of trauma that leaves a person feeling insecure, overwhelmed and unsafe in the world: complex post-traumatic stress disorder, or CPTSD.
In our practice as trauma-informed therapists, we recognize that many of those seeking our care have a history of trauma throughout their childhood. It is likely they have complex trauma that has resulted in CPTSD. It’s hard for trauma survivors themselves to recognize this.
Because living in a triggered state of alarm is so familiar, many don’t realize trauma is the source of their feeling “not okay.” That’s why I want to address CPTSD here and to encourage those who feel overwhelmed or hopeless to realize they are not broken. They are injured, and these injuries are treatable.
What is complex trauma or CPTSD?
Complex PTSD or complex trauma is trauma that starts or happens in childhood. It’s relational (occurring in relationships, usually some of the most important ones) and developmental (happening during the formative years of childhood).
Complex trauma is usually recurring (happens more than once) and is inflicted by a caregiver, parent, guardian, or person who has close, repeated contact — like a clergy person, neighbor or family member. Complex trauma can consist of emotional, physical and/or sexual violence.
Every time I use the term “trauma survivor,” I use it to encompass all types of trauma: complex trauma, single-incident trauma, the list
Injured, not broken: Why it’s so hard to know you have CPTSD Read More »