Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Symptoms, Causes And Treatment


What Is Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur secondary to a stressful or traumatic event.

The most common events include a vehicle accident or natural disasters.

However, in recent years, a closely related condition called complex post-traumatic stress disorder is emerging as a new anxiety disorder. It is now widely recognized and diagnosed by doctors worldwide.

This disorder is called “complex,” because it involves repeated trauma over months or years, compared to a single traumatic event that causes simple PTSD.

What Are The Symptoms?

Along with typical PTSD symptoms, people suffering from CPTSD usually have additional symptoms that are specific to CPTSD.

One should keep in mind that the signs and symptoms of both PTSD and CPTSD can vary from person to person.

The signs and symptoms of CPTSD include;

Changes In Consciousness

This symptom is also called “dissociation”.

It involves feeling detached from your body or emotions and forgetting the traumatic event.

Lack Of Emotional Regulation

A CPTSD patient finds it very difficult to control his/her emotions.

He or she may have ongoing sadness or explosive anger.

Difficulty With Relationships

A patient may have a feeling of not knowing his people and how to interact with them.

He may also finds himself avoiding his close relationships with other people out of mistrust.

Alternatively, some patients might seek relationships with strangers or those who tend to harm them.

Negative Self-Perception

A strong negative self-perception surrounds a patient.

He may feel guilt and shame and consider himself completely different from other people.

Loss Of Systems Of Meanings

It simply refers to one’s beliefs about the world or religion.

A CPSTD patient may lose his faith in strong beliefs related to his religion.

He may also develop a strong sense of hopelessness regarding his surroundings and world.

What Causes Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

There is still a lot of research work going on to figure out exactly how CPTSD develops.

However, several studies suggest that any kind of long-term trauma, over several months or years, can lead to CPTSD.

This repeated trauma could be physical, mental or emotional. Examples include;

  • Ongoing physical, emotional, or sexual abuse by a friend or relative.
  • Constant abusing behavior by a protector or caregiver.
  • Ongoing childhood neglect
  • Being a prisoner of war
  • Homeless people and long-term drug abusers

How Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Is Treated?

CPSTD in advanced stages is difficult to manage.

However, there are several medical as well as psychological treatment options that can manage the symptoms and help patient led a healthy life.


CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy is by far the most effective treatment option for CPSTD patients.

It involves talking therapy with a psychiatrist either alone or in a group.

CBT helps a patient identifies his negative thought pattern and behavior and provides him tools to overcome them.

Psychotherapists may also offer dialectical behavioral therapy to some patients.

It is a type of CBT that helps them bear the stress, better respond to it and build stronger relationships with others.


Antidepressants tend to work best for most CPTSD patients.

Most doctors also prescribe a combination of antidepressants, EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) or CBT to improve results.

Antidepressant medications commonly used include;

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)

While some patients may need these medications for long-term, others may taper them off meanwhile learning new coping strategies.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here