Although it is clearly absent from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, complex posttraumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) is a condition that has acquired broad acceptance in the mental health community. According to our experts on trauma counseling in Orlando, the signs and characteristics of C-PTSD are often similar to borderline personality disorder (BPD) and Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, they are most commonly connected to experiences of chronic child abuse or neglect. In addition, any uneven power dynamic manipulated over a lengthy period—like kidnapping, cults, hostage situations, indentured servitude, or intimate partner violence—can be a cause for complex trauma.
Complex trauma's principal distinction is its extended nature. It's not that your caretaker assaulted you once; it's that your childhood experience was loaded with frequent maltreatment, resulting in signs often diagnosed as attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), depression, or anxiety. While these diagnoses might be accurate, they do not address the root of the problem.
How a parent interacts with their offspring can significantly impact the child's emotional development. A lifetime of harm may result when a child is not adequately attuned, attended to, or loved as an infant or in early youth. Usually, no perceptible scars or marks indicate that anything harmful has happened. However, when the individual becomes an adult, they might encounter serious relationship issues or struggle with alcohol or drug dependency and other problems without comprehending why. This is also complex trauma.
When somebody has been chronically abused during any part of life due to abuse or emotional neglect, they may have an inner tendency to display various external symptoms. These include but are not limited to aloofness, anxiety, somatic signs (migraines, stomach issues, etc.), dissociation, and despair.
People who encounter trauma at an early age must shield themselves in some way to cope. One protection mechanism is to cut off the part of themselves experiencing the trauma. This results in the traumatized individual having a fragmented mind. Fragmentation is a defensive strategy. It serves an individual well during traumatic experiences but is problematic once it is no longer required for survival.
This fragmentation cannot be viewed under a microscope or in brain scans. Instead, it is as if the individual develops different, developmentally hindered personas frozen in time deep within their unconscious mind. As a result, each persona is rigorously committed to a lack of maturation and induces stunted emotional growth.
Many inner working models about life are formed during a youth's upbringing. These often result in internalized 'schemas.' Schemas materialize in all individuals early; some are adaptive, and others are maladaptive. They are made up of feelings and profoundly ingrained beliefs regarding self, others, and relationships. Schemas are neurologically kept as experiential memories and are encountered viscerally. For instance, one schema might produce an internal message like, "I am not worthy of love; I know it. I sense it in my being."
Modes are generated internally in reaction to schemas and are composed of the personas developed during traumatic or emotionally dysregulating incidents. Modes are compensatory and are produced mainly as protection. Some protection is over-compensatory, like in the case of narcissistic or antisocial personalities. Others come in the form of avoidance, being overly friendly, denial, etc. Modes are similar to personalities. The required personality pops up as needed in response to an experienced trigger.
Everybody functions in modes. Some individuals with minimal traumatic incidents in childhood have pretty "normal" modes, where triggers aren't as devastating as for those who come from an exceptionally emotionally deprived upbringing. However, when powerful modes of connecting are present, personality disorders may materialize. For instance, dissociative identity disorder (DID) is the clinical term for an individual with specific and separate personas conceived as a result of childhood trauma.
We hope this helps you better understand complex posttraumatic stress disorder. Contact us today to schedule trauma counseling in Orlando. We are here to help you live your best life.
Heather Oller is the owner and founder of Orlando Thrive Therapy, Coaching, and Counseling. She is a licensed counselor and a family mediator who has over 23 years of dedicated work as a professional in the mental health field. Through her company's mission, she continues to pave the way for future therapists, and their clients, who want a higher quality of life....and who want to thrive, rather than just survive. You can contact Orlando Thrive Therapy at 407-592-8997 for more information.