What is Complex PTSD?

Complex PTSD, which is also treatable, is a relatively new and emerging concept in mental health. While it is not an official diagnosis in the DSM-V, Complex PTSD/C-PTSD affects individuals who have experienced chronic inescapable traumas, over which that they have little or no control, that continue for months or years at a time.

This makes C-PTSD different from PTSD, because the current PTSD diagnosis applies to one event that lasts for a short time. It is important to note that you may have both PTSD and C-PTSD at the same time.

Who can get C-PTSD?

  • People who have survived living in concentration camps.

  • People who have survived prisoner of war camps.

  • Survivors of long-term childhood physical and/or sexual abuse.

  • People who have been involuntary sex trade workers or victims of human trafficking.

  • Survivors of long-term domestic violence.

The reason why a growing group of professionals want to distinguish C-PTSD from PTSD is because while they share many of the same symptoms, some literature has pointed to three symptoms exclusive to C-PTSD:

  • Problems with emotional regulation. You might have a lessened sense of emotional sensitivity. You may lack the ability to respond to situations appropriately or feel you are unable to control your emotions.

  • Problems with interpersonal relationships. You may have difficulty feeling close to another person; feel disconnected or distant from other people. It may be hard for you to maintain close relationships with family, significant others, or friends.

  • Negative self-concept. You may have a poor perception of oneself. You might feel worthless, helpless, shame, guilt, and other problems related to self-esteem.

C-PTSD can be treated with the same evidence-based treatments that are effective for treating PTSD. However, some research suggests that therapy with a focus on reestablishing a sense of control and power for the traumatized person can be especially beneficial.

Treatment & Resources