What is CPTSD?

CPTSD and Complex Trauma describe the psychological impact of repeated traumatic experiences over an extended period of time.

Complex PTSD is like regular Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, except…complex. Regular PTSD typically arises in response to one or a small number of distinct traumas. But in CPTSD the adult or, more frequently, child, is exposed to trauma over such a duration of time that they adapt and adjust to the experience of trauma.

For children this exposure to trauma coincides with key developmental milestones, the formation of attachment to caregivers (who may also be perpetrators or enablers of trauma and abuse), and the normal trajectory of becoming an independent person with a sense of self and healthy boundaries.

If a healthy adult were subject to an extended period of imprisonment, abuse, and torture, we would not be surprised to find them “a changed man” by the end of their ordeal. Likewise, children raised in dysfunctional, abusive, and unsafe environments are profoundly changed by their experience.

For a nuanced and in-depth introduction to CPTSD, click here.

being at the complete control of another person (often unable to meet their most basic needs without them), coupled with no foreseeable end in sight, can break down the psyche, the survivor’s sense of self, and affect them on this deeper level. For those who go through this as children, because the brain is still developing and they’re just beginning to learn who they are as an individual, understand the world around them, and build their first relationships – severe trauma interrupts the entire course of their psychologic and neurologic development.

CPTSD is a powerful and important paradigm for sufferers of long-term trauma, and it deserves to be more widely known and understood.

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