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PTSD Awareness Month: What is C-PTSD?

When John returned from a combat mission in Afghanistan, his wife Michelle had no idea of what lay ahead for the couple. Six months after his return, while on their way to a movie, John suddenly experienced unusual symptoms while traveling on the subway. Too many people in the station, multiple trains, bright lights and the loud sounds were so overwhelming that he sprinted out of the station, leaving his wife stranded on the station, baffled. Later, the couple got to know that John suffered from a more severe form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), known as Complex-PTSD or C-PTSD.

John is not the only one suffering from C-PTSD. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), approximately 7.7 million U.S. adults suffer from PTSD. Acknowledging the fact that PTSD affects a major chunk of the U.S. adult population, the Congress, starting from 2014, have dedicated the month of June to observing the National PTSD Awareness month. The purpose of this month is to raise awareness about PTSD and effective treatments available for its treatment.


A lot of traumatic events such as accidents, natural disasters, the death of a loved one, etc. are time-healing, which means, that over a period of time, an individual might accept them and experience diminished trauma. However, sometimes, certain experiences may cause chronic or repeated trauma, which might continue for months or even years.

Individuals experiencing chronic trauma might report additional symptoms, along with the usual PTSD ones. This is known as Complex PTSD or Disorders of Extreme Stress Not Otherwise Specified (DESNOS), just as was the case with John.

Traumas associated with C-PTSD

Complex PTSD is a result of long-term trauma when the victim is held in a confinement either physically or psychologically. These are the situations when the victim is under restraint or experiences something against his or her will and is unable to get away. Some such traumatic situations could be:

  • Prolonged domestic violence
  • Long-term child sexual abuse
  • Long-term child physical abuse
  • Brothels
  • Concentration camps
  • Prisoner of War camps
  • Wars or combat missions

John had witnessed the war for a long period of time and was exposed to continuous trauma resulting from it. This was the reason why he had developed and displayed symptoms of C-PTSD.

Symptoms associated with C-PTSD

People suffering from C-PTSD display symptoms in addition to those of PTSD. Long-term victimization of individuals often manifests in the form of multiple behavioral difficulties such as:

  • Emotional turbulence: This may be seen as inhibited or explosive anger, continued state of sadness, and suicide ideation.
  • Disturbed consciousness: This may be seen as reliving or forgetting the traumatic episode, feeling disoriented and/or detached from the surroundings.
  • Twisted self-perception: One might harbor feelings of shame, guilt, remorse and attach stigma with his/her situation.
  • Distorted thoughts about the perpetrator: One might think too strongly and too often about the perpetrator, plot a revenge against him/her, mentally giving them control.

Equation with others: One might become a recluse, indifferent and lose faith in loved ones.

Recovering from C-PTSD

Generally, the symptoms of C-PTSD do not resolve over a period of time without help. In fact, over time, the symptoms persist and sometimes, even exacerbate. It is, therefore, necessary to seek professional help to get back to normalcy as C-PTSD can greatly incapacitate people.

The treatment for Complex PTSD necessitates long-term therapy which must address the patient’s interpersonal challenges and at the same time, treat specific symptoms as well. Continued therapy empowers the survivors and allows them to mourn, heal and come to terms with life.

It is imperative to seek support when an individual or someone he loves is grappling with traumatic flashbacks and symptoms repeatedly. Timely treatment can greatly help an individual return to normalcy soon and avoid alcohol and substance abuse.

If you or someone you know is suffering from PTSD, C-PTSD or any other mental health disorder, Sovereign Health can help. Call our 24/7 helpline number 855-969-5557 to know more about our PTSD treatment centers in California and other states. You can also chat online with one of our experts for further assistance.

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