What Is Complex PTSD?

Are There Effective Treatments for Complex PTSD?


Zina Ortiz

11/16/20212 min read

Adult survivor of childhood trauma, PTSD, Anxiety and Depression effective treatment in Denver
Adult survivor of childhood trauma, PTSD, Anxiety and Depression effective treatment in Denver

Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) is a mental health condition that stems from chronic exposure to traumatic events, profoundly affecting one's emotional and psychological well-being. Unlike traditional PTSD, CPTSD exhibits a broader range of symptoms, often linked to prolonged trauma experienced during childhood or adulthood.

The origins of CPTSD can be traced back to various traumatic or threatening events, such as long-term childhood abuse, chronic childhood neglect (I will write another blog about the insidious and covert long term effects of emotional and physical neglect), domestic violence, human trafficking, or exposure to war and frequent community violence. The resulting stress responses can include anxiety, depression, flashbacks, nightmares, heightened emotional reactions, difficulties forming healthy connections, and sustaining relationships. The condition is further marked by struggles in emotion regulation, identity, and maintaining meaningful connections, including involvement in dysfunctional and unhealthy relationships.

While PTSD typically arises from short-term trauma, CPTSD is a result of prolonged traumatic experiences, leading to additional challenges in emotion regulation, identity, and relationships. Exposure to prolonged, repetitive, and highly distressing events like domestic violence, childhood abuse, torture, genocide, or slavery shapes CPTSD, causing lasting changes in key brain areas responsible for processing emotions, fear, memory, and executive functions.

Children, in particular, are vulnerable as they lack the ability to escape unsafe and unhealthy environments. Their voices and interests are often disregarded in the world of adults, hindering their growth and potential. The scars of being unseen, unheard, and unacknowledged persist through the years, impacting their development and future.

Disadvantaged children born into families with limited resources and facing physical and mental health challenges remain trapped in a developmentally constraining milieu for years. The adverse impact of such an upbringing extends into adulthood, affecting their health, competence, and educational achievements. The critical period of early life, from conception and on, serves as the foundation for future health and development, underscoring the importance of nurturing and protecting children from the very beginning.

Treating CPTSD requires a multimodal approach, using a combination of therapeutic methods like EMDR, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Somatic Experiencing, Parts Work, and/or Internal Family Systems. These approaches address issues at their core, improving emotional tolerance and social functioning. While no specific medications are approved for CPTSD, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can help manage certain symptoms. Combining multimodal psychotherapy with medication enhances the resolution of CPTSD, but consistency is crucial for successful treatment.

Although managing CPTSD symptoms may pose lifelong challenges, healing and growth are attainable with the right support and treatment. Embracing self-care practices, seeking therapy, and support from others are vital steps in the journey towards recovery. Each individual has the power to become their own hero, reshaping their narrative and discovering strength in resilience.

Complex PTSD requires compassionate understanding and specialized care, emphasizing the profound impact of prolonged trauma on emotional well-being. By embracing our inner hero, we can confront CPTSD, breaking free from its grip, and embracing a future of healing, growth, and self-discovery. Seek help, reach out, and remember that your journey towards wellness is a testament to your strength and determination. Be the hero of your own story by facing the challenges head-on and taking steps towards a better state of being.

I offer Effective Treatment for Complex PTSD using a multimodal approach to treating CPTSD, with treatment length varying based on individual willingness to heal. Additionally, I provide Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy (Cannabis and Ketamine) in combination with various therapeutic methods. Be the hero of your own story; take a path towards a better state of being.