Recovering from the bewildering array of physical, emotional and spiritual wounds resulting from lasting trauma often starts with recognising the symptoms and working through them with a trauma-informed therapist. A diagnosis of Complex PTSD can be a valuable first step on the path to recovery, providing a map for treatment and complementary therapies. With the right support and personal commitment, a survivor's inner landscape can transform from one of pain and confusion to integrated wholeness, peace and self-acceptance, the promise of a more fulfilling life.
Re-experiencing symptoms: flashbacks, nightmares, repetitive and distressing images or sensations, physical sensations, such as pain, sweating, feeling sick or trembling
Avoidance and emotional numbing: Trying to avoid being reminded of the traumatic event, avoiding certain people or places that remind you of the trauma, or avoiding talking to anyone about your experience, trying not to feel anything at all, self-isolating
Hyperarousal (feeling 'on edge'): feeling anxious and finding it difficult to relax. They may be constantly aware of threats and easily startled. Can lead to: irritability, angry outbursts, sleeping problems (insomnia), difficulty concentrating
Other problems: phobias, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, headaches, chest pains, stomach aches, work problems and breakdown in relationships
Source: NHS UK
If you are experiencing these symptoms, it doesn’t mean you are crazy. They are normal, instinctual responses to a traumatic past event (or series of events) and there are ways to reduce, and sometimes reverse them completely.
The symptoms can vary in intensity from one day to another. You may experience more of them when you’re feeling stressed in general. Memories of the traumatic event may be activated by a sound, smell, taste, place or image and set off your body's alarm system, causing your body to act as if you're in danger.
Not all traumatic events lead to PTSD, however, and some of these symptoms will fade away a few weeks after the event. But if they persist for longer than a month, it may be PTSD.
PTSD is generally related to a single event, while Complex PTSD is related to
'repeated and multiple types of interpersonal trauma from which escape is difficult or impossible' (Cloitre, M. et al, April 2020).
Behavioural difficulties - impulsivity, aggressiveness, sexual acting out, alcohol/drug misuse and self-destructive behaviour.
Emotional difficulties - intense and hard to control emotions, sudden mood swings, rage, depression and panic.
Cognitive difficulties - feeling disconnected from yourself and the world around you (dissociation), identity confusion, having multiple identities, numbness and pathological changes in personal identity.
Interpersonal difficulties - chaotic personal relationships, persistent distrust, can't feel close to anyone, looking for or becoming a rescuer.
Somatisation - physical health problems arising from psychological trauma resulting in many visits to medical practitioners.
Source: Judith Herman, MD
Trauma and Recovery (1992)
Traumatic events that can cause Complex PTSD include:
Childhood abuse (emotional, physical, sexual) and neglect
Experiencing human trafficking
Experiencing being a prisoner of war
Living in a region in conflict
Experiencing or witnessing domestic abuse
COURTOIS, C. A. Understanding Complex Trauma, Complex Reactions, and Treatment Approaches. Web article.
Rethink Mental Illness
Sonia Connolly, Signs of Trauma
If you have been affected by this information and would like to speak to someone, please click on our Support Services page for details.
Registered Office Address
Recovery Code X Community Interest Company
71-75 Shelton Street
London WC2H 9JQ
Company Limited by Guarantee
Company Number 14656781
Copyright 2020 Recovery Code X