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Complex-Trauma & PTSD

Complex-Trauma & PTSD

Most people experience trauma at some stage in their lives. Whilst many people can recover from trauma over time, with the love and support of family and friends and bounce back with resiliency, others may discover effects of lasting trauma. This lasting trauma can cause a person to live with deep emotional pain, fear, confusion, or post traumatic stress, far after the event has passed. In these circumstances, the support, guidance and assistance of a therapist is fundamental to healing from trauma.

There is a significant difference between CPTSD and PTSD. Complex-trauma can be identified as developmental (from childhood) or chronic trauma (ongoing emotional abuse or residual emotions from abuse) that shows up in the present as emotional triggers and reactions to other people, places and things. These emotions can be so painful to deal with that they lead to thoughts and behaviours that hinder a person’s wellbeing and functioning at times.

In the world of psychology, there are what we call, big T and little t traumas, which could be a major disaster versus a comment made that we ruminate over. Single event traumas are usually related to PTSD and in some cases Acute Stress Disorder (ASD). Each person has a unique window of tolerance to traumatic situations, this means that they may react differently to similar psychological stressors, depending on what their mind and body can tolerate. Therefore, it is crucial to widen that window, which means building resilience. This is where psychotherapy comes in.

In some cases, there may have been abuse or neglect from one or both parents. However in other cases, no one is necessarily to blame for adverse childhood trauma. Sometimes parents cannot always be there to protect their child from bullying; peer pressure; social media; body image issues; relationships and fears about the world we live in. Parents and caregivers must take care of themselves to prevent stress from guilt, shame and anxiety, surrounding a person who is struggling.

If you are an adult who has experienced trauma in childhood, or even adulthood, your emotional reactions to people and events around you could create higher levels of stress. As Bessel Van de Kolk once said, “the body keeps the score”. In order to remove the somatic experiences in the body, related to this stress, there is a complicated science behind it. This is part of the therapeutic process and can take three weeks to one year, depending on the complexity of the traumas and the nature of each person’s individual case formulation.

Let us look at what happens in the brain with emotional trauma. An adult who has had early life emotional stressors will find that their brain development works differently. This could manifest as issues with memory, cognitive processing, socialising and/or learning. If this is processed in therapy, the adult can find that their memory and processing skills improve rapidly.

Trauma Symptoms

According to the four types of symptoms listed in the DSM-5

Avoidance Symptoms

  • Avoiding specific locations, sights, situations, and sounds that serve as reminders of the event
  • Anxiety, depression, numbness, or guilt

Re-experiencing Symptoms

  • Intrusive thoughts, nightmares or flashbacks

Hyper arousal Symptoms

  • Anger, irritability and hyper vigilance
  • Aggressive, reckless behaviour, including self-harm
  • Sleep disturbances

Negative Mood and Cognition Symptoms

  • Loss of interest in activities that were once considered enjoyable
  • Difficulty remembering details of the distressing event
  • Change in habits or behaviour since the trauma

These diagnostics are merely a guideline to understanding if you are experiencing traumatic symptoms so that I will know how to best treat you or your loved one.

Research has proven psychotherapy to be the most effective form of treatment for trauma. Most commonly, EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing is one of the most evidenced-based modalities used in treating trauma.

If you or someone you know match the trauma symptoms listed above, I am confident that I can help and invite you to contact me today for a discussion.