Complex Ptsd or Disorders of Extreme Stress – Symptoms

Symptoms of complex PTSD or disorders of extreme stress.

Complex PTSD or Disorders of Extreme Stress – Symptoms

Symptoms of complex PTSD or disorders of extreme stress.

If you have experienced prolonged, repeated, extensive exposure to traumatic events, you may be suffering from a disorder that has not yet been named in the DSM-IV, the clinical manual used by treatment providers to determine diagnoses. This disorder is called complex PTSD or disorders of extreme stress. People who may be suffering from complex PTSD include prisoners of war, hostages who were held captive for long periods of time, concentration camp survivors, cult survivors, battering victims, domestic violence survivors, sexual abuse survivors, and children who have suffered years of other types of trauma.

Symptoms of Complex PTSD

You are more likely to experience symptoms of complex PTSD if your traumatisation occurred early in life, was prolonged, and was interpersonal. The seven symptom groups of PTSD include:

Alteration in regulation of affect (emotion) and impulses

  • Chronic affect dysregulation (your emotions have a life of their own)
  • Difficulty managing and moderating anger.
  • Self-destructive or suicidal behaviours.
  • Difficulty moderating sexual involvement.
  • Impulse and risk taking behaviours.

Alterations in attention or consciousness

  • Amnesia
  • Transient dissociative episodes (short periods of zoning out)
  • Depersonalization.

Somatization (how your body holds trauma)

  • Digestive system problems.
  • Chronic pain
  • Cardiopulmonary symptoms
  • Conversion symptoms, psychological problems that get converted into physical symptoms.
  • Sexual symptoms
  • Panic

Alterations in self-perception

  • Chronic guilt, shame, and self-blame.
  • Feeling that you are permanently damaged.
  • Feeling ineffective
  • Feeling nobody understands you.
  • Minimizing the importance of the traumatic events in your life.

Alterations of perception (these are not needed for a diagnosis of complex PTSD)

  • Adopting the distorted beliefs of the perpetrator about yourself, others, and what happened as true.
  • Idealizing of the perpetrator
  • Preoccupation of hurting the perpetrator.

Alterations in relations with others

  • Inability to trust
  • Revictimizing yourself
  • Victimizing others.

Alterations of meaning (how you see life, others, and spirituality)

  • Despair
  • Hopelessness

What is complex PTSD?

If you have complex PTSD, you may have some or all of these personality issues:

  • You have problems with your ability to regulate emotions, especially anger.
  • You may find it hard to ‘stay present’ without becoming amnesic (unable to remember) dissociative (spaced out), depersonalized, or preoccupied with the trauma.
  • You may not see yourself as a functioning individual who can avoid feeling helpless, shameful, guilty, stigmatized, alone, or full of self-blame.
  • You may not have the ability to separate yourself from the abuser without either being preoccupied with revenge, feeling gratitude, or accepting the abuser’s introjects as true. (Introjects are someone else’s beliefs that you take into your head as your own then believe)
  • You may not have the ability to have positive, healthy relationships with others without being isolated, withdrawing, being extremely distrustful, and failing to protect yourself.
  • You may not have the ability to find meaning in your life and maintain faith, hopefulness and a sense of the future without feeling despair.

Like PTSD, complex PTSD is treatable with time and therapy. You can reclaim a better future.

Source: The PTSD Workbook, Mary Beth Williams Ph,D & Soili Poijula Ph.D., New Harbinger Publications, Inc. 2002

Disclaimer : The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.

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