Understanding Complex PTSD and Treatment Options
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a severe mental health condition. People may develop following exposure to a traumatic event. Events like a vehicle accident, natural disaster, or violent assault can lead to PTSD. But there’s a more intense form of PTSD that is less well-known yet equally important to comprehend. It’s called Complex PTSD.
Understanding and effectively treating Complex PTSD is critical to improving the quality of life for those affected.
Read on to learn more about assessments for CPTSD such as the informal Complex PTSD test that follows, as well as the programs of effective treatment available at Icarus Behavioral Health in Nevada.
Understanding PTSD: A Closer Look
PTSD occurs when an individual continues to experience intense psychological and emotional stress long after a trauma. Anyone who has experienced a traumatic event can develop PTSD.
But not everyone will. Individuals may experience flashbacks of the event or nightmares. It may cause persistent difficulties in emotional regulation.
An Introduction to Complex PTSD
Complex PTSD stems from repeated and prolonged traumatic experiences. These often occur in early childhood. This trauma can include physical or sexual abuse, neglect, or living in a conflict zone.
This complex trauma differs from a single-incident traumatic event that precipitates PTSD. It leads to a different range of symptoms and requires different treatment strategies.
What Events Can Cause PTSD and C-PTSD?
While PTSD can stem from many traumatic events, some scenarios occur more often. It’s important to note that trauma is subjective. An event that might traumatize one person may not have the same impact on someone else.
Here are some of the most common types of events that can lead to PTSD:
Events That Can Cause Someone to Develop PTSD
This disorder can occur in many circumstances. But here are just a few underlying risk factors and causes of repeated trauma that can cause long-term trauma.
Military personnel often experience high levels of traumatic events. That makes them a high-risk group for PTSD. These traumatic experiences can range from witnessing death or severe injuries, sustaining injuries, or feeling threatened or in constant danger.
Childhood Physical and Sexual Abuse:
Previous trauma, particularly childhood sexual or physical abuse, can increase the risk of PTSD. The repercussions of prolonged exposure to events can persist well into adulthood. These can impact mental and emotional health for years.
Sexual or Physical Assault:
Experiencing or witnessing a violent attack, especially sexual assault, can lead to PTSD. The severity of the symptoms often correlates with the severity of the assault. These events could be domestic violence or random attacks.
Experiencing natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, or floods, can trigger PTSD. These events often result in significant loss, displacement, or physical harm.
Severe Accidents or Life-Threatening Illnesses:
Experiencing a life-threatening accident, like a car accident or industrial mishap, or facing a severe illness, can lead to PTSD. These situations often bring about a sudden, drastic change in an individual’s life, creating a profound sense of vulnerability and fear.
As the World Health Organization (WHO) notes, forced migration due to war, conflict, or persecution can cause this. Displaced individuals often face life-threatening situations and severe deprivation. They also experience the loss of homes, communities, and loved ones.
Prolonged Traumatic Circumstances:
Experiences like emotional abuse, domestic violence, bullying, or living in a war zone can cause PTSD. These situations involve repeated exposure to threatening and harmful circumstances over a prolonged period.
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), first responders. These include paramedics, firefighters, and police officers, who face high-risk, high-stress situations that can contribute to developing PTSD. They are often first on the scene of traumatic events.
Thus, they see the aftermath of violence, accidents, and natural disasters. This repeated exposure to trauma, and the high stress of their jobs increases their vulnerability.
The onset of PTSD is a complex interplay between the type of event, an individual’s personal history and emotional coping mechanisms, and their support network. Understanding the traumatic events that can lead to the extreme stress of PTSD enables us to recognize potential risks. It also informs the need for a strong support system.
What are the Core Symptoms of PTSD and Complex PTSD?
Knowing the primary symptoms of PTSD and C-PTSD is key to understanding these disorders. Here we detail the symptoms unique to each.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Symptoms:
- Intrusive Thoughts: Individuals with traditional PTSD often experience recurrent, unwanted thoughts about the trauma. These can manifest as distressing dreams, flashbacks, or persistent memories. They lead to significant emotional distress.
- Avoidance: Individuals may avoid reminders of the traumatic event to lessen distress. These behaviors can involve avoiding places, people, thoughts, feelings, or conversations that could trigger memories.
- Negative Changes in Thoughts and Mood: PTSD can cause individuals to harbor negative thoughts. They may struggle to feel positive emotions, feel detached from others, or lose interest in life.
- Changes in Physical and Emotional Reactions: Also known as “arousal symptoms,” these changes may include a quick startle response (easily startled). It also leads to feeling on edge, having trouble sleeping, or having angry outbursts. Some people with PTSD might engage in self-destructive behavior. These can include drug or alcohol abuse or reckless driving.
Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) Symptoms
C-PTSD encompasses the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. But complex post-traumatic stress symptoms speak to the chronic nature of the disorder.
- Emotional Regulation Issues: People with C-PTSD may experience difficulty controlling their emotions. It can result in persistent sadness, suicidal thoughts, explosive anger, and inhibited anger. Thus, they suppress their anger or feel numb.
- Changes in Consciousness: This can involve forgetting or reliving traumatic events, or having episodes of dissociation. (Dissociation is when people feel detached from themselves or their surroundings).
- Negative Self-Perception: Individuals may have a persistent and distorted sense of self. They may feel helpless, guilty, or ashamed. Some people may view themselves as completely different from other people. As a result, they may feel isolated or alienated.
- Distorted Perceptions of Perpetrators: A person with C-PTSD might obsess over their abuser. It can include preoccupation with revenge or unwarranted feelings of closeness. It can also mean accepting the perpetrator’s distorted view of reality.
- Difficulties in Relationships and Interpersonal Trauma: People suffering from C-PTSD might have difficulty trusting others. They might also have challenges with establishing close relationships. They may seek out or become a rescuer for someone in distress.
- Loss of System of Meanings: This can include loss of faith, hope, or another firmly held set of beliefs.
Complex PTSD Test Measures and Self-Assessment
Understanding these complex PTSD symptoms in detail aids in making an accurate diagnosis. These behaviors help professionals in tailoring effective treatment for PTSD and Complex PTSD. By recognizing these signs, individuals can take the first steps toward healing and recovery.
It is also worth noting that this list is not all-encompassing for all PTSD patients. Every patient has unique lifestyle factors, inherited personality traits, and circumstances. Additional symptoms may also present. That’s why it is imperative to see a mental health professional to assess your underlying trauma, or multiple traumas, and make a proper diagnosis.
For a more in-depth analysis, if you recognize these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, please reach out to our clinical staff today for assistance.
The Impact of Complex PTSD on Mental and Physical Health
Complex PTSD can result in severe and wide-ranging mental and physical health impacts. It is a serious mental health condition. Psychologically, individuals may experience distorted perceptions of the perpetrator, a loss of faith or trust in humanity, and a profound sense of isolation.
Somatic Symptoms Stemming from Chronic Trauma
Physically, these individuals might also experience somatic symptoms, such as chronic pain or fatigue. If left untreated, the somatic symptoms of Complex PTSD can lead to significant impairment. These physical symptoms might also increase the likelihood of substance abuse or an underlying mental illness.
Frequent Co-Occurring Disorders With Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Individuals with PTSD or Complex PTSD often grapple with additional mental health disorders, commonly called co-occurring disorders. Understanding these conditions can assist in delivering more comprehensive and effective treatment plans. Some of the most frequent co-occurring mental disorders include the following:
- Depression: Many individuals with PTSD also struggle with depressive disorders. Symptoms can include persistent sadness, loss of interest in daily activities, fatigue, and feelings of guilt or worthlessness.
- Anxiety Disorders: Generalized anxiety, social, and panic disorders often develop. These conditions cause excessive and ongoing feelings of worry and fear.
- Substance Use Disorders: Many people with PTSD use alcohol, drugs, or medication to cope with their symptoms. That leads to substance abuse disorders. It can also create a cycle where substance use exacerbates PTSD symptoms. As a result,it causes further distress and increased substance use.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): OCD is a disorder characterized by recurring, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). Individuals with PTSD may develop OCD to gain control over their environment. They believe it helps them mitigate feelings of fear and anxiety.
- Dissociative Disorders: Some individuals with PTSD or Complex PTSD might experience dissociative symptoms. In extreme cases, they may develop Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly called multiple personality disorder).
- Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD): BPD is a severe mental health disorder. Unstable moods, behavior, and relationships mark this disorder. It’s more common among individuals with a history of childhood trauma. Hence, it often co-occurs with Complex PTSD.
- Eating Disorders: Anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder can all occur. These disorders might serve as coping mechanisms to manage stress, control, and body image issues often associated with PTSD.
Considering co-occurring disorders is crucial when diagnosing and treating PTSD or Complex PTSD. An integrated treatment approach can address all conditions. This ensures the individual receives comprehensive care and a better chance at recovery.
Comprehensive Assessment and Diagnosis for Complex PTSD
Given the severe impact of Complex PTSD, obtaining an accurate diagnosis is crucial. This diagnosis involves a comprehensive clinical assessment by a licensed mental health professional. They often use criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). It ensures that the treatment plan addresses the full scope of the patient’s symptoms.
Proven Treatment Methods for Complex PTSD
Once diagnosed, complex PTSD treatment can begin. Evidence-based treatments can help individuals process intrusive memories. It may also reduce negative emotions, self-harm, and other self-destructive behaviors. Additionally, doctors may prescribe medicine to help manage co-occurring symptoms.
Some psychological therapies that help are these:
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT): CPT is a specific type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that helps patients learn how to modify and challenge unhelpful beliefs related to the trauma they’ve experienced. The therapy is usually delivered over 12 sessions and teaches patients skills to evaluate and change thought patterns that lead to distress. Patients can address these patterns and decrease their symptoms by understanding how specific thought patterns add to post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): Originally developed to treat BPD, DBT is also effective for treating Complex PTSD, particularly for individuals who struggle with emotional regulation. DBT blends traditional cognitive-behavioral techniques with mindfulness and acceptance strategies. The “dialectical” part of DBT involves finding a balance between acceptance and change—accepting feelings and experiences as they are, but also working to implement positive changes.
- Exposure Therapy: This therapeutic approach is a standard and effective treatment for PTSD. It involves gradually exposing patients to thoughts, feelings, and situations that remind them of repeated trauma. Exposure therapy aims to help patients confront and gain control over their fear and distress. Over time, the trauma-related stimuli cause less and less distress. It reduces complex post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. As a result, it improves the quality of life.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR is a relatively new, nontraditional psychotherapy designed to diminish negative feelings associated with traumatic memories. During eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, patients are asked to recall distressing images while the therapist directs them to perform bilateral sensory input, such as side-to-side eye movements. The goal is to change how the patient reacts to traumatic memories, helping to reduce their psychological impact.
The Role of Rehab in Treating Complex PTSD
Rehabilitation centers, like Icarus Behavioral Health in Nevada, are pivotal in treating Complex PTSD. These facilities offer a secure and therapeutic environment. It’s where individuals can work through their trauma at their own pace. In these settings, patients can access various therapies. They also have support from professionals specializing in trauma-related disorders.
Icarus Behavioral Health in Nevada: Treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Our team at Icarus Behavioral Health in Nevada helps those dealing with Complex PTSD reclaim their lives and achieve lasting peace. Begin your journey to recovery today.
Icarus in Nevada’s Approach to Complex PTSD
Trauma and PTSD can make daily life a challenge. However, mental health conditions do not need to define lives.
At Icarus Behavioral Health in Nevada, our team of licensed mental health professionals takes a personalized approach to C-PTSD treatment. We tailor traditional, alternative, and creative therapies, to meet each patient’s unique needs.
Our holistic approach emphasizes physical, mental, and spiritual wellness. We help patients regain control and improve their quality of life. Past patients have found significant relief and healing through our program, reframing their traumatic pasts.
Complex PTSD is a challenging disorder. Yet, with the proper support and treatment, individuals can find relief from their symptoms. They ready themselves to work towards a healthier future. It’s crucial to get help. If you struggle with this disorder, or your loved one does, reach out for help.
Reach Out for Recovery from Trauma Today
Are you ready to accept help today? Then don’t hesitate to contact us at Icarus Behavioral Health. Our compassionate, experienced team is ready to provide the support and care necessary for recovery.
All calls are confidential and discreet, so please reach out today in confidence to our Admissions team. We will let you know about program availability, and insurance coverage details if needed, and answer any questions you may have.
Reach out today and get options to help you overcome trauma at our one-of-a-kind facilities!