We have all heard of PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, and know that it can result from a shocking incident such as the loss of a loved one, horrific accident, natural disaster, or any situation where you fear you (or someone you care about) may die. Complex PTSD, on the other hand, is not as widely recognised and can be overlooked. Understanding why you have flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia, extreme anxiety, depression, mistrust of others, guilt or shame could help you embark on a complex PTSD recovery plan towards a more stable future.
Complex PTSD often stems from childhood within an abusive situation, where abuse can be psychological, emotional, physical and/or sexual in nature. The abuse is ongoing, and it may not be obvious that the behaviour is abusive, especially to a child. Very often the abuser is someone related or close to the person in question, and someone who, in normal circumstances, the child should have been able to trust. This repeated abusive behaviour has a range of emotional and physical consequence for a child, which carry on into adulthood even if the abuse stops.
As they get older, they may rebel and become defiant, or become a people pleaser who walks on eggshells so as not to invoke adverse reactions from others. This kind of ongoing treatment also has long term implications for a person’s nervous system, heart rate and blood pressure, even when the original set of abuse has ceased.
Three Steps Towards Complex PTSD Recovery
There are several roads to recovery from chronic PTSD. A psychologist who specialises in trauma will be able to discuss your unique situation and recommend an approach that suits you best. One of the ways in which this kind of long-lasting trauma can be addressed, however, is the 3-step process described below. This outline will give you an idea of how you might be able to start thinking about your own difficult childhood experiences, as well as a peek into what might happen during sessions to address complex PTSD and related symptoms.
Step one will involve learning the skills needed to reach a level of safety and stability when with another person. This step towards complex PTSD recovery is crucial, as your brain cannot move forward until you feel protected and in a place of safety and trust.
During the second step, the therapist may encourage you to remember the trauma and mourn all that you have lost because of it. The trauma specialist will walk with you as you uncover the fear, doubt in yourself and the feelings of being powerless to do anything about it. Whilst taking this step forward, you can still revisit the stabilisation and safety phase when needed.
The final step is recognising that you are able to return to a place of safety and stability whilst remembering and mourning the life that you lost due to the trauma. This is the final stage of your complex PTSD recovery. Once you reach this point, you can move forward feely knowing that you have the skills to overcome your once debilitating fears.
If you have suffered poor treatment or ongoing abuse as a child, or if you would like to explore your experiences of childhood in more depth to better understand their long term implications on how you function today as an adult, then support is available with our psychologists.
The Sydney City Psychology team welcomes you, and we have specialised trauma therapists waiting to help you. Contact us today to set up an appointment.