What Is C-PTSD?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2019
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C-PTSD, also known as complex post-traumatic stress disorder, is a mental health condition caused by living in a traumatic situation for a prolonged period of time. This condition is most common among those who have been physically, mentally, or emotionally abused during childhood or people who have lived for extended periods of time in domestic violence situations. Symptoms of C-PTSD may include depression, feelings of isolation, or trouble maintaining healthy relationships. A person with this condition may have frequent flashbacks to the traumatic events, causing an inability to fully function in the present. Any specific questions or concerns relating to C-PTSD should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Flashbacks are among the most commonly reported symptoms of C-PTSD. The patient may have persistent flashes of memory involving past traumatic events that result in intense emotions, just as if the events were occurring all over again. Simple things, such as hearing a loud noise or someone standing closely behind the affected person, may trigger these flashbacks. The patient may not consciously understand why such strong emotions and reactions to seemingly normal events are taking place.


Those with C-PTSD often have trouble maintaining healthy relationships with others. This may be due to a fear of trusting another person, especially if the patient was traumatized by a trusted friend or family member. Inability to control emotional outbursts is another potential relationship barrier. The C-PTSD patient may cry or become angry for reasons others do not understand. Without treatment, the patient usually does not understand the reasons for overreacting.

Guilt, unworthiness, and a feeling of never fitting in with others are classic symptoms of C-PTSD. If something does not go as planned, a person with this disorder may interpret this as a personal rejection. There may also be an extreme fear of the person who caused the trauma. This fear can become so severe and incapacitating that it does not go away even if the perpetrator is imprisoned or is no longer alive.

Treatment for C-PTSD is very individualized, as there is no specific standardized treatment program that will work for every person. Prescription medications and various form of therapy and counseling are available to help those experiencing this condition. A psychiatrist is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders and is usually the most qualified medical professional to help the individual patient create a treatment plan based on specific needs.


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