What is complex PTSD, or C-PTSD, and how is it different from PTSD? How do we treat these problems? That’s what I’m going to talk about today in this video. I’m Dr. Tracey Marks, a psychiatrist, and I publish weekly videos about mental health education and self-improvement. If you don’t want to miss a video, click Subscribe and the notification bell. A viewer question from ZT inspires today’s topic, and I’ll read the question.
If you don’t mind, I’m curious about something. I am bipolar and getting proper care, but something happened to me over the summer. My brother-in-law violated me by touching my breast and my butt on the outside of my shorts and inside my shirt’s short arms. Would you please talk about how to handle this? My doctor has me on something for PTSD, and it’s not helping with how to take this once and for all.
I would love to see a conversation about that, please. Thanks, ZT, for this question. I also had a problem with C-PTSD, so I decided to include both topics in this video. PTSD used to be considered an anxiety disorder. Still, with the new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual that came out in 2013, it was moved to trauma and stress-related disorders.
The significance of this is that PTSD is more than anxiety. People have very complex emotions afterwards that include guilt, shame, and anger. Those are just examples, but lots of things more than just concern. You can think of PTSD as an emotional react, ion to a traumatic situation. The trauma is something that poses a risk to your life, physical harm or sexual violence.
And this would be something like experiencing than what we see in people with PTSD from individual traumatic experiences.
We’ve seen on brain scans that people with PTSD have changes in areas of their brain like the amygdala and the hippocampus than people without PTSD don’t have. So I just want to clarify that saying your traumatic experience doesn’t qualify for PTSD is not saying that your situation didn’t hurt you or that there’s nothing wrong with you.
It just means that your response There’sthere are o the situation is not the same as PTSD. But we do have other trauma-based disorders. S, in reality, it doesn’t matter whether we technically call it PTSD or adjustment disorder with depressed mood. The more important thing is that if your symptoms are a response to trauma than the trauma is addressed in your treatment.
That’s what matters. And I’ll talk about treatment later on in the video. But first, what does PTSD even look like? There are not going to go into a lot of detail here because there are many symptoms with PTSD. There are 20 possible symptoms. But I will list the symptom criteria in the description for you. But the gist of it is, you have four groups of symptoms.
Intrusion symptoms where memories of the event just pop into your mind at times that you don’t want it to, and this can be nightmares, or it can be thoughts that happen during the day. There are avoidance symptoms of things that remind you of the trauma. Someone who had a bad car accident may never want to drive again or even get into a car. Then there’s negative thoughts or moods associated with the trauma.
An example of this would be someone who feels like they just don’t think that they will live very long. They don’t necessarily know why that’s just the feeling that they have. Or they have the constant thought that something else bad is going to happen. The fourth group of symptoms involves being on edge or hyperreactive, and this is where you can get the anger outbursts, or the person can have trouble sleeping because they’re checking locks in the middle of the night.
To have PTSD, you need one or two symptoms from all four groups co-occurring. So this is what I mean by PTSD being a particular type of disorder that results from a specific kind of traumatic experience. So what’s complex PTSD, or C-PTSD? Complex PTSD is not an official diagnosis in our diagnostic manual.
Instead, we call it a construct, or a term used to describe ike relationship difficulties, low self-esteem, anger problems, mood instability.
The person with C-PTSD can develop depression or anxiety secondary to these problems, but at the core is this fractured self that came from a severe emotional disruption during the formative years. So the baggage from all of that trauma ends up being hard-wired into you, and this hard-wiring affects how you respond to the world.
Now the person with PTSD can also see some shifts in their personality, not to the same degree as the person with C-PTSD. You can become more negative, not necessarily all the way depressed, but have this lingering negativity about your future. You can also feel as though you have memory problems, be a lot more irritable all the time, have a lot of shame, even anxiety and sleep problems, and the person with PTSD can also become depressed on top of that.
So how do we treat trauma-based disorders? If you have significant depression or anxiety symptoms, those can be treated with medication. But getting at the root of the trauma requires psychotherapy. And not everyone needs medication. If you need medication, though, think of it as something that dampens your symptoms that are causing all this disruption to your life to make it easier for you to work through the trauma experience.
A perfect strongly recommended treatment for trauma is EMDR, which stands for eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing. This involves discussing the experience while engaging in the exercise of moving your eyes back and forth. The p process of crossing the midline of your brain, going side to side, helps your brain reprocess how you respond emotionally to the trauma.
That’s a significantly simplified explanation of that therapy. If you are avoiding things like avoiding having sex because you’re raped, a therapist can use different forms of exposure therapy to help you reconnect to the something that you’re avoiding. Tbehaviorther kinds of trauma-based treatments, such as cognitive processing therapy, which is very popular in the Veterans Administration, and they use it with veterans with PTSD.
There’s also brain remapping and other somatic therapies. Dialectical behaviour therapy, which was developed for borderline personality disorder, can be a form of trauma-based therapy because borderline personality disorder is thought to have its roots in childhood trauma. And I’ll have a link to that video a where I discussed borderline personality disorder.
So if you have complex PTSD, DBT may be very helpful for you even if you haven’t been diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder. I hope this helps you understand the difference between PTSD and complex PTSD and answer your question, ZT, on how do you get past the trauma and the therapies that can be used to help with that. It’s not going to be just medication.
Leave me a comment to let me know your thoughts about this and any experience with this. Thanks for watching it. (“My Harlem Days 1” by Jan Chmelar). I am what I am today because I did it my way Nothing you all can say In this life or the next one.