Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) is a psychological injury that results from protracted exposure to prolonged social and/or interpersonal trauma with lack or loss of control, disempowerment, and in the context of either captivity or entrapment, i.e. the lack of a viable escape route for the victim. C-PTSD is distinct from, but similar to, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Symptoms are:

  • Difficulties regulating emotions, including symptoms such as persistent sadness, suicidal thoughts, explosive anger, or covert anger.
  • Variations in consciousness, such as forgetting traumatic events (i.e., psychogenic amnesia), reliving traumatic events, or having episodes of dissociation (during which one feels detached from one’s mental processes or body).
  • Changes in self-perception, such as a chronic and pervasive sense of helplessness, shame, guilt, stigma, and a sense of being completely different from other human beings.
  • Varied changes in the perception of the perpetrator, such as attributing total power to the perpetrator or becoming preoccupied with the relationship to the perpetrator, including a preoccupation with revenge.
  • Alterations in relations with others, including isolation, distrust, or a repeated search for a rescuer.
  • Loss of, or changes in, one’s system of meanings, which may include a loss of sustaining faith or a sense of hopelessness and despair.

The most informative book on Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence–from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror by Judith Herman.

22 responses to this post.

  1. thanks for this

  2. Posted by soul_sista_nyc on January 15, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    Wow. Can’t wait to read this.

  3. Posted by juniper7 on February 15, 2012 at 3:46 am

    wow- after ALL these years of silent torture (I can present myself well to the world when I have to, but no one knows the severe depression, anxiety, shame, etc that consumes so much of my energy), and thousands and thousand of dollars spent on so many healing modalities, and now I know what my problem is.why no matter what I try (and i could probably teach healing, I have learned so much) the problems still remain. I read rewire your brain for Love this weekend which was such an “aha”. No amount of intention or insight or even advanced energy healing can access the amygdala that wakes me every night at 4am in panic, and II stay in fight or flight all day, despite my world being safe. can’t relax no matter how much exercise or previous meditation. NOW I understand why mindfullness is so important- to change the brain and its responses and heal the traumas. I don’t usually post online but I was so relieved to find you and this site. so many blessings and gratitude to you!

  4. Juniper7, you are 100% correct. I too have struggled for years and this mindfulness/ breathing model has changed my life.

  5. Posted by juniper7 on February 15, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    thank you for responding kaitlots.to feel understood for the first time is astonishing, yet most of what I’ve read about this c-ptsd is that it’s a long long recovery, i’ve already been in a long recovery and that depressed me even more. i should be working now but another sleepless night so i just did 30 minutes of the breathtrack, usually i get relaxed but i kept finding my shoulders hugging my ears and thoughts galore; it’s been a uncomfortable week to say the least with the adrenaline, so i’m wondering how long before seeing results. yes, i exercise also
    however, since it has gotten much worse, it is possible that this is trauma surfacing to be released due to what I’v been doing (lots of mindfulness med and guided meditations for trauma, grief and anxiety, lots of crying, too, (what else is new?) I have a session with a powerful energy healer this afternoon and am HOPIng that this is all up for release and relief.
    is there a central forum for this group or just post under the different categories?

  6. I totally understand you. I started seeing results from the breathing track in less than 30 days – start small, you will too.
    And WOW – I too notice my shoulders get all hunched up too sometimes! Don’t try to fight it, just gently relac and be aware, feel the tension.
    There is no forum that I know of but this blog is WONDERFUL, look around read all you can. I will let Marty reply with more details :)

  7. hello Juniper,

    I sense the anxiety and urgency you have. if you are a meditator then it is not long if you apply your emptiness in a laser like direction.

    It sounds like you are in a very aroused state with high levels of cortisol. First you have to diminish the quantity by stimulatiing the para sympathetic nervous system with aerobic exercise and meditation, mindfulness, my breathing track.

    My friend Alex sounds similar to your plight. He has two decades of work into zen centers, course of miracles and a few other things like this. He never knew what emptiness or no thought was about or how to apply it.

    If you have done this meditative work then you have not wasted your time. We can adapt what you have and make it help you heal.

    Please share your experience meditating. Do you reach emptiness, no thought for a while during a sit. How do you handle thoughts?

    let me first say we need to adjust a couple of things that you are doing that is feeding your trauma and increasing your symptoms. The way you handle thoughts will decide if you improve.

    When a trigger thought arrives leave it alone. We heal by staying present and not getting lured into the story of trauma. It fuels when we dissociate or venture into the past or future. Trauma does not live in this minute.

    Now let us stop digging and fueling this trauma. Self talk is all positive. We do not handle thoughts, what ifs, or any way thinking about these things. We use our focus on the breath to stay present. We do not entertain negative visuals or any negative on our self worth. The ego or left brain is a computer and we are knowingly reprograming our ego to be like our true self.

    next is affirmations spoken out loud to engage the frontal lobes for more effect.

    Aerobic exercise I will get to later.

    So please describe your sits and how you handle thoughts.

    Do you see the thoughts around the late night early morning fight or flight avoidance fire alarm that you are alerting to action.

    We observe the body sensations of the triggers, our own cortisol, we are learning where it settles.

    Fear does not hurt us. Has any of this fear done damage at 4am. Has that trauma crying wolf at 4am ever been correct. How do we still serve a mechanism that has no reinforcement.

    The 4am thing is a dud for results, would you say. has anything happened at 4am?

    Marty and welcome. You can heal but it takes daily work and effort.

  8. I have been exactly where you are. I have tried holistic, energy healers, cranial,sacral, acupuncture, hypnosis and every therapy invented up to that time.

    hard to reach the amygdala and if it is childhood trauma forget it.

    I did have one healer, she could take the cortisol in my body at that time out of me. I thought that might help, but dumping of cortisol was an hourly event for me at one time.

  9. Posted by Chuck on September 17, 2012 at 7:21 am

    I’m taking a break from reading the book and found your blog while looking up C-PTSD. Is anyone of you still out there and/or getting results? Like many I have been making the rounds of different counselling/recovery options for years and am back at hopelessness.

  10. Hopelessness fades when you develop focus and let go of the storyline and stay present. You can heal and will if you do the daily work.


  11. […] C-PTSD […]

  12. How many individuals “play the victim?” Playing the victim to get attention and comfort from their family, their friends and in some cases, from medical professionals.

    Reasons? Many various reasons, I mention but only two. Does it help the patient, the person with the physical or mental injury to play this game? No.

    The persons helping the-patient, will eventually realize they are being “played” and will eventually walk away, whether it be a friend, family member or other.

    The victim will hopefully realize this and get help and start being proactive on his part. Once he accepts what he was doing and stops, he is on the way to recovery, small steps at a time.

    Take care all


    Peter Platt
    Founder and Editor
    Badge of Life Canada

  13. Thank you for your opinion.

    This blog calls for action, mental mostly but physical exertion aerobically is a great help.

    That word victim itself causes many issues.

    If you take action you change the mind and step out of victim hood, action is the key to healing.

    Oh yes it helps if that action is specific, concrete and can withstand traumas a jolt of fear and terror.

    How many grab the victim role, well from being on the big discussion boards it seems a great majority suffer and play victim.

    First we peaked responsibility for our own life, then we take action.

    This blog has witnessed many heal, get better, and then go on to a full life.

    enabling is not only possible but should be expected if we do other daily work.

  14. Posted by LisaMarie on October 3, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    The first time I was thrown out of my house was 5. The last @16 when I told my mom that my dad was sexually molesting me. Rejected. I ended up being tricked into what I thought would be safety in a home… A guest home for woman. Turned out I was trapped (litterly) by being bound, sleep depravation all while being shamed for my nakedness and the intrusion of perverts. I disasociated. More than once until I succumbed to a filthy rotten sex ring of perverted men liking and abusing woman. It’s f’d. I’m f’d. I did run away when I had a chance, cut my hair, dyed it and moved to a other city. That was several years ago. There are more atrocities I experienced and sometimes I want to end my life. I regress during flashbacks and am overtaken by seriously reliving the mess. I hate it. Can’t stop it. Not even with meds. The abuse I took as a child, mental, emotional, sexual and physical wAs more than enough. I look great and speak nicely. For the most part people don’t have a clue what I suffer. I applied for disability after blacking out at work… Can’t concentrate or trust people. Don’t know why I posted this. I cried for about 2 hours in my car at a park by myself … Wanting to end my life. Then put my makeup on to coverup the puffy eyes and redness from crying and now I’m alienating myself again. I hate all this.

  15. Your life has great challenges, it is fine to feel weak,,overwhelmed at times, let the thought go and be with the sensation in the body, tenseness, tightness, pain, anxiety, spasms, etc.

    One way to relieve so of these judgment about your life, your self worth is to practice focusing on the breath. This will alleviate some of the anxious feeling, the worry and fear.

    It is ok to explore your feelings, in safety, they will not harm you, anger either. Emotions change constantly throughout the day.

    Try feeling the opposite emotion you are experiencing right now. When anger arises, focus and bring peacefulness, calm into your being.

    When you are sad, be happy, when happy try to feel sad, then back and forth.

  16. Posted by guest on October 7, 2013 at 11:40 pm


    what do you mean when you say:

    I have tried holistic, energy healers, cranial,sacral, acupuncture, hypnosis and every therapy invented up to that time. hard to reach the amygdala and if it is childhood trauma forget it.

    (Posted by Marty on February 15, 2012 at 7:04 pm)

    Forget… recovery? Reaching amygdala?

  17. Sorry. Have not responded, I will make a post with your question so all can see. Thanks for feedback

  18. Posted by ptsdjedi on December 27, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    My PTSD was a result of the Asian tsunami and being involved with the initial search and rescue. For years I struggled until I was finally diagnosed properly and stated trauma therapy. Aspect of my treatment were the focus of a BBC radio documentary on PTSD.

    My life has moved forward since the treatment, it’s not ideal but it’s manageable. There are still bad days but I’m trying to focus on the good.

    I have just started a blog, to share my story and raise awareness of PTSD. In order try to highlight the countless men, women and children who suffer trauma in silence. And, how with greater understanding and early and accurate diagnosis we can genuinely support those that suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.


  19. Posted by Angela Griffith on April 26, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    It is comforting to hear various remedies for success in coping with PTSD.
    Thank you.

  20. Posted by Charles Ford on June 19, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    I disagree with Peter’s characterization that we actively “play” at this.
    Unfortunate choice of words.

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