28 Years of Clinical Experience
PhD Counseling Psychology
Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
A basic definition of Trauma is – any event or experience, including witnessing, that is physically and or psychologically overwhelming to the exposed individual. Complex trauma encompasses multiple and repeated experiences of psychological and physical trauma, typically beginning in childhood, often becoming chronic. It involves overlapping layers of traumatic experience ‘stacked on top of” which could be as a consequence of attachments to the primary caregivers.
About Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Chronic trauma takes many faces, the obvious ones are physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional/psychological abuse. Most easily observed in children are lack of proper physical care, not getting enough to eat, not having decent and clean clothes and not being taken to the doctor or dentist when ill or for regular check- ups. In adults, struggles with work and money, abusive relationships
A less apparent, although damaging form of trauma is emotional/ psychological neglect where an individual or child is physically provided for, but one or more of their emotional, education and social needs are ignored.
Both forms are damaging to the victim and require on-going attention and treatment.
Some of the more common emotional reactions to trauma and complex trauma are:
- Shame and Guilt
Types of Trauma
- Impersonal Trauma – Random occurrences or “Acts of God”
- Interpersonal Trauma– Deliberately caused and or committed by one or more people that is planned and premeditated (abuse, neglect, assault, sexual abuse
- Attachment Trauma or (Relational Trauma) – neglect, emotional , physical sexual abuse, domestic violence which occurs in a caretaking relationship or a romantic partnership
- Betrayal Trauma– Domestic Violence
- Secondary Trauma– The protector doesn’t protect the victim (rape)
- Institutional Trauma– The traumatic event is covered up and ignored, or the victim is punished (abuse by clergy)
- Identity Trauma – discrimination, violence due to gender, race, ethnicity
Complex PTSD Treatment
Trauma-informed Care is the philosophy and approach I use in the treatment of complex post traumatic stress disorder based on the fact that many (if not most) individuals receiving treatment with mental health disorders have a history of trauma that relates directly to their present-day distress.
At your initial consultation and screening I will ask about past trauma along with weaving educational information about trauma and its impact on you throughout the treatment process.
Secondary symptoms of the original untreated effects of trauma can include: chronic depression, severe anxiety, anger management issues, chaotic lifestyles, etc. These issues require treatment and stabilization first, before the underlying trauma can be explored in detail for healing.
Treatment for complex PTSD includes the impact on the individuals identity and self -worth, the ability to identify and regulate emotions and ability to trust and relate to others in healthy and intimate ways.
Complex PTSD can further result in dissociation, physical illness and a loss of life meaning, spirituality and overall life satisfaction. Typically these symptoms do not get recognized as trauma-related, meaning they are often misunderstood, overlooked and untreated.
A primary challenge for most complex trauma survivors involves recognizing, accepting and regulating, communicating about and embracing their emotions. The good news for survivors, of all trauma, is that they can learn to use their emotions in healthy ways – most importantly as a primary means of discerning their needs, their uniqueness and their identity. Another primary task in treatment for healing is to learn how to feel, identify and healthfully process emotions to set healthy boundaries for themselves and with others.