PTSD: Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: What is C-PTSD? An overview of signs and symptoms of C-PTSD

PTSD: Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: What is C-PTSD? An overview of signs and symptoms of C-PTSD

By: Zoe Alekel

The Mayo Clinic defines Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as, a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Although overlapping with PTSD, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) has additional symptoms and complications due to prolonged and repeated trauma over periods of time (i.e. domestic physical, emotional, or verbal abuse, childhood abuse, long-term torture, and long-term exposure to ongoing crisis conditions).

The US Department of Veterans Affairs defines C-PTSD as experienced chronic trauma that continues or repeats for months or years at a time. Some have suggested that the current PTSD diagnosis does not fully capture the severe psychological harm that occurs with prolonged, repeated trauma. Symptoms of C-PTSD can include: behavioral difficulties, emotional difficulties, cognitive difficulties, interpersonal difficulties, and somatization.

A person who has experienced a prolonged period (months to years) of chronic victimization and total control by another or other types of trauma, may also experience difficulties in the following areas:

  • Emotional regulation: Includes persistent sadness, suicidal thoughts, explosive anger, or inhibited anger.
  • Consciousness: Includes forgetting traumatic events, reliving traumatic events, or having episodes in which one feels detached from one’s mental processes or body (dissociation).
  • Self-perception: Includes helplessness, shame, guilt, stigma, and a sense of being completely different from other human beings.
  • Distorted perceptions of the perpetrator: Includes attributing total power to the perpetrator, becoming preoccupied with the relationship to the perpetrator, or preoccupied with revenge.
  • Relations with others: Includes isolation, distrust, or a repeated search for a rescuer.
  • One’s system of meanings: Includes a loss of sustaining faith or a sense of hopelessness and despair.

If you or someone you know needs support with C-PTSD, please contact our psychotherapy office in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722 – 1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit



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