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Complex PTSD, is not a personality disorder.



The following is by Prof. Judith L Herman


Complex PTSD: A Syndrome in Survivors of Prolonged and Repeated Trauma

Judith Lewis Herman


Observers who have never experienced prolonged terror, and who have no understanding of coercive methods of control, often presume that they would show greater psychological resistance than the victim in similar circumstances.


The survivor’s difficulties are all too easily attributed to underlying character problems, even when the trauma is known.


When the trauma is kept secret, as is frequently the case in sexual and domestic violence, the survivor’s symptoms and behavior may appear quite baffling, not only to lay people but also to mental health professionals.


The clinical picture of a person who has been reduced to elemental concerns of survival is still frequently mistaken for a portrait of the survivors underlying character.


Concepts of personality developed in ordinary circumstances are frequently applied to survivors, without an understanding of the deformations of personality which occur under conditions of coercive control.


Thus, patients who suffer from the complex sequelae of chronic trauma commonly risk being misdiagnosed as having personality disorders.


Earlier concepts of masochism or repetition compulsion might be more use fully supplanted by the concept of a complex traumatic syndrome.


Prof. Judith Lewis Herman

Joumal of Traumatic Stress, VoL 5, No. 3, 1992




More of Judith L Herman's expert knowledge on complex trauma, can be found in her ground breaking book, which I strongly recommend.

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