Part three: What Does Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Look Like?



“There are several and various psychological aspects to CPTSD and we have tried to list as many as we could below with associated explanations.

* Problems with Emotional Regulation. Survivors find they have a very difficult time experiencing, expressing, and controlling emotions. Not only are survivors unable to describe, comprehend and label them correctly, feeling emotions is terrifying and might express in a volatile manner.

Survivors may experience persistent sadness, suicidality, or either explosive anger or be incapable of expressing it. Survivors often feel numb and are incapable of leveling out their moods after they have experienced an extreme emotion such as elation or grief.

One common symptom any survivors encounter is the re-experiencing of their childhood trauma through flashbacks. These flashbacks are intrusive and often the triggers causing them are elusive. This symptom is known as an emotional flashback.

* Difficulty with Relationships. One might think that when we talk about having difficulty with relationships, we are only speaking about having trouble forming and holding an intimate relationship but that’s not all there is to it.

Survivors often have feelings of isolation and haven’t the knowledge of HOW to form relationships. The fear involved in trusting another human being will not harm them leaves these survivors in a morass of harboring the intense needs to hide away and refuse to try to trust others with also desperately wanting someone to love them.

However, some survivors swing the opposite direction and trust too much leaving them vulnerable to victimization to people who will repeat the pain and abandonment of the past.

Below are listed and described some of the difficulties people living with the diagnosis of complex post-traumatic stress disorder experience.

* Difficulties with Self-Perception. Due to the messages given by their childhood abusers, survivors often have problems with perceiving themselves as worthwhile and worthy of dignity and respect. Unfortunately, due to the signals sent by caregivers, many believe they are fundamentally bad or damaged beyond repair. This leaves survivors feeling powerless, hopeless, and helpless. Many survivors take on the role of rescuer, sacrificing their own health and happiness to care for others; while others feel a sense of entitlement that blocks their healing.

There is also a permeating feeling of not belonging in the world that, somehow, they are a mistake and should never have been born. This brings a deep sense of loneliness that may result in isolating from other people.

However, these beliefs and feelings are far from the truth as survivors are compassionate, competent, strong, and intelligent human beings.”

* Attachment to the Perpetrator. Because survivors have such a low esteem of themselves, many find themselves believing that they are making up things about those who harm them, or worse, that they deserve maltreatment.

Many cannot break free from the influence of their abusers, especially if that person is someone they love like a father or mother. Even though they know the behavior they received as children or are receiving in the present, telling the truth about their loved one feels like a betrayal. These feelings can sometimes translate into suicidality as the survivor struggles with the impression left by their abuser that if they talk about what happened, then they are dirty, nasty, or will be disowned.

Some survivors feel guilt and sadness in leaving their abuser even knowing how badly they are treated by them. Perpetrators groom their victims by giving the impression that they love them and make statements relating to their victim that they will never be loved the way the perpetrator loves them.

Other survivors feel inadequate to manage life without their perpetrators in the picture, following up on messages from the abuser that they cannot live without them.

An Interruption of the Survivor’s System of Meanings. A person’s system of meanings involves their assessment of who they are based on the person’s abilities, weaknesses, feelings, and life. Childhood abuse interrupts a survivor’s sense of self which leads to a struggle to maintain faith or belief that justice, ethics, and morality are unreal. This leaves the survivor with an unfairly contorted outlook on the world.

This distorted vision of their environment often leads to doubt that there is any goodness or kindness that isn’t selfish and that they can never find forgiveness, although they did nothing wrong.

While many people exhibit most of the symptomology listed on this page, they may or may not experience all of them. This is important to understand as survivors are individuals first and have different life experiences. It is also vital to note that comparing one person’s experiences with childhood or other trauma with someone else’s is like comparing an apple to an orange. While they are both almost round and contain seeds, that is where the resemblance ends. One person’s trauma is not better or worse than that of someone else.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by rudid96 on April 22, 2021 at 9:40 pm

    This defines the chapter headings of most of my triggers. I’ve experienced all the stated symptoms and now am working hard to create a different state. It’s so difficult. I regularly have to talk myself thru socializing and being in this world. Thank goodness for masks. It’s provided me with a socially acceptable form of distance.
    I wonder what normal people experience?

  2. I like the masks in public

    I can be invisible

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: