Complex post-traumatic stress disorder 

Unlike post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) is a stress-related disorder which occurs in response to prolonged or repetitive exposures to traumatic events.

Typical symptoms include emotional dysregulations (angry outbursts, throwing objects, and aggression towards self or others), negative self-beliefs (feelings of shame, guilt, and failure) and interpersonal difficulties (problems with relationship boundaries, lack of trust, social isolation, difficulty perceiving and responding to others’ emotional states). Other symptoms can include feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, distorted sense of self and hypervigilance.

A good example of this is Rick James (American singer-songwriter). He said, “I was angry about the fact that my father would beat my mother on a daily basis, that my mother would take it in turn and beat on me. I was an abused child. I was mad about all those things, very bitter and very angry”.

CPTSD is often caused by repetitive adverse childhood experiences. Indeed, the trauma model of mental disorders connects CPTSD with chronic neglect or repetitive sexual, psychological or physical abuse. 

It has also been observed as a result of instances of intimate partner violence, bullying, kidnapping and hostage situations, slavery or other human trafficking, sweatshop workers, prisoners of war and solitary confinement.

Judith Lewis Herman (American Psychiatrist) was the first scholar to propose Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) as a new mental disorder in 1992, with her book Trauma & Recovery.

Regardless of the age of the sufferer, a child or adult, the first step is to identify and address the threat they are under. Only once safety and stability has been restored can recovery begin. Judith Lewis Herman proposed a complex trauma recovery model that occurs in three major stages:

  • Establishing safety
  • Remembrance and mourning for what was lost
  • Reconnecting with community and more broadly, society

Herman believes recovery can only occur within a healing relationship where the survivor is empowered by that relationship. This means relationship in the widest sense. It need not be romantic and can also include relationships with friends, co-workers, relatives or children. It can be a therapeutic relationship (between a healthcare professional and a client or patient).

Hypnotherapy can help with CPTSD. If you contact me, I will carry out an initial free consultation to discuss with you what symptom you have. If I can help you I will set out. If I feel I can’t help you, I will refer to a better suited health professional.

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