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Differences between PTSD & Complex PTSD



PTSD - can be caused by a one time life/short lived existence threatening trauma, or sexual trauma.


Some examples of this trauma - car crash, rape, attack with guns/weapons (store hold up). There are many criterion that need to be met for PTSD diagnosis, including re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance symptoms, negative cognitions, mood and arousal.



Complex PTSD - is caused by severe, prolonged, ongoing trauma, or multiple types of trauma, either life threatening, or complex trauma in childhood. It is typically within a captivity situation where the child or adult doesn't perceive there to be a viable escape.


Examples of complex trauma that cause Complex PTSD are - prolonged severe child abuse (due to age and immaturity of brain development), prolonged physical abuse, prolonged severe domestic violence, kidnapping, hostages, prisoner of war. 


PTSD is a continuum, and can range from only mildly life impacting (can still work etc), to completely disabling and severely life impacting and is manageable to varying degrees depending on the severity and the persons own capacity to engage in healing.


Complex PTSD, will be the severe end of the PTSD continuum, plus many other complex severe symptoms, and is far more treatment and therapy resistant, far more complex to treat and manage. They are very different disorders.


My advice is always where possible seek therapy with a mental health professional trained in trauma and PTSD and trauma related disorders.


Once PTSD symptoms have occurred for over a year, they are likely to be lifelong and will not go away untreated. Seeking help is vital, learning the PTSD strategies is vital.


If Complex PTSD, the therapist needs to have considerable insight into the complex affects of complex trauma, as opposed to one off trauma.


There is hope and healing and I am determined to heal as much as I am capable of healing.

The Following is sourced from Psychcentral



Uncomplicated PTSD


Uncomplicated PTSD involves persistent reexperiencing of the traumatic event, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, emotional numbing, and symptoms of increased arousal. It may respond to group, psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, pharmacological, or combination approaches.


Comorbid PTSD


PTSD comorbid with other psychiatric disorders is actually much more common than uncomplicated PTSD. PTSD is usually associated with at least one other major psychiatric disorder such as depression, alcohol or substance abuse, panic disorder, and other anxiety disorders. The best results are achieved when both PTSD and the other disorder(s) are treated together rather than one after the other. This is especially true for PTSD and alcohol or substance abuse. The same treatments used for uncomplicated PTSD should be used for these patients, with the addition of carefully managed treatment for the other psychiatric or addiction problems.


Complex PTSD


Complex PTSD (sometimes called “Disorder of Extreme Stress”) is found among individuals who have been exposed to prolonged traumatic circumstances, especially during childhood, such as childhood sexual abuse. These individuals often are diagnosed with borderline or antisocial personality disorder or dissociative disorders. They exhibit behavioural difficulties (such as impulsivity, aggression, sexual acting out, eating disorders, alcohol or drug abuse, and self-destructive actions), extreme emotional difficulties (such as intense rage, depression, or panic) and mental difficulties (such as fragmented thoughts, dissociation, and amnesia). The treatment of such patients often takes much longer, may progress at a much slower rate, and requires a sensitive and highly structured treatment program delivered by a team of trauma specialists.



Great Article on the differences between Complex PTSD and PTSD

How A Diagnosis Of Complex PTSD Differs From PTSD - Matthew Hull, Ph.D



Symptoms of Complex PTSD ~ Pete Walker


Renowned traumatologist, John Briere, is said to have quipped that if Complex PTSD were ever given its due – that is, if the role of dysfunctional parenting in adult psychological disorders was ever fully recognized, the DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders used by all mental health professionals) would shrink to the size of a thin pamphlet. It currently resembles a large dictionary.

In my experience, many clients with Complex PTSD have been misdiagnosed with various anxiety and depressive disorders, as well as bipolar, narcissistic, co-dependent and borderline disorders. Further confusion arises in the case of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), as well as obsessive/compulsive disorder, which is sometimes more accurately described  as an excessive, fixated flight response to trauma.

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