What Is Complex Ptsd And What Are The Symptoms
When PTSD is the result of systematic or chronic exposure to traumatic events and experiences over a long period of time, as opposed to one single event in time, it is referred to as Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Survivors of human trafficking or child abuse
- Prisoners of war or prisoners in concentration camps
- Refugees from war torn countries.
Complex PTSD symptoms are different than the symptoms for PTSD and can include the following:
- Emotional Regulation: having a hard time communicating wishes or expressing emotions, experience depression, thoughts of mutilation and suicide
- Disassociation: amnesia, feeling a sense of detachment from the experience, feeling as though it happened to someone else
- Self-Concept: feeling shame, guilt or self-hatred
- Behavioural Control: the explosion of anger, demonstrating aggression
- Attachment: lack of trust in others, being isolated.
People who develop Complex PTSD run a higher risk of being harmed repeatedly and typically demonstrate significant personality disturbances. Since a traditional PTSD diagnosis does not include these additional symptoms, Complex PTSD can be mistaken for other disorders such as Borderline or Masochistic Personality Disorder.
HOW IS PTSD DIAGNOSED?
It is also possible to do a self-test by filling out a self-reported questionnaire . The questionnaire contains 17 items and a score of 13 or higher means it is more than likely that PTSD is present.
Helping Someone With Ptsd Tip : Provide Social Support
Its common for people with PTSD to withdraw from family and friends. They may feel ashamed, not want to burden others, or believe that other people wont understand what theyre going through. While its important to respect your loved ones boundaries, your comfort and support can help them overcome feelings of helplessness, grief, and despair. In fact, trauma experts believe that face-to-face support from others is the most important factor in PTSD recovery.
Knowing how to best demonstrate your love and support for someone with PTSD isnt always easy. You cant force your loved one to get better, but you can play a major role in the healing process by simply spending time together.
Dont pressure your loved one into talking. It can be very difficult for people with PTSD to talk about their traumatic experiences. For some, it can even make them feel worse. Instead, let them know youre willing to listen when they want to talk, or just hang out when they dont. Comfort for someone with PTSD comes from feeling engaged and accepted by you, not necessarily from talking.
Do normal things with your loved one, things that have nothing to do with PTSD or the traumatic experience. Encourage your loved one to seek out friends, pursue hobbies that bring them pleasure, and participate in rhythmic exercise such as walking, running, swimming, or rock climbing. Take a fitness class together, go dancing, or set a regular lunch date with friends and family.
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How Trauma Impacts The Brain
Trauma and stress associated with trauma changes the brain structure and function. During a traumatic event, the body produces large amounts of stress hormones which affect the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex. These areas of the brain are responsible for feelings and actions related to fear, clear thinking, decision-making, and memory. These functions and abilities have been found to be decreased in a person who has experienced trauma.
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How Might A Parent’s Ptsd Symptoms Affect His Or Her Children
PTSD includes a range of symptoms that can have an effect on family members. The following are some examples of how certain kinds of PTSD symptoms can affect children.
People who have PTSD often “re-experience” traumatic events through memories or dreams. This can happen quickly and can seem to come out of nowhere. These symptoms often come with strong feelings of grief, guilt, fear, or anger. Sometimes the experience can be so strong that you may think the trauma is happening again. These symptoms can be scary not only for you but also for your children. Children may not understand what is happening or why it is happening. They may worry about their parent or worry that the parent cannot take care of them.
Avoidance and numbing symptoms
Because the re-experiencing symptoms are so upsetting, people with PTSD try not to think about the event. If you have PTSD, you may also try to avoid places and things that remind you of the trauma. Or you may not feel like doing things that used to be fun, like going to the movies or your child’s event. It can also be hard for people with PTSD to have good feelings. You may feel “cut off” from family and children. As a result, children may feel that the parent with PTSD does not care about them.
Arousal And Reactivity Symptoms Include:
- Being easily startled
- Feeling tense or on edge
- Having difficulty sleeping
- Having angry outbursts
Arousal symptoms are usually constant, instead of being triggered by things that remind one of the traumatic events. These symptoms can make the person feel stressed and angry. They may make it hard to do daily tasks, such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Ptsd
PTSD begins in the brain. When someone feels threatened or they go through a scary experience, the brain responds by releasing stress hormones, giving them a boost of adrenaline and instinctively urging the person to either fight or flee.
With PTSD, the brain continues to believe danger is imminent even though there is no longer a threat. This in turn means stress hormones continue to be released unleashing the symptoms of PTSD. For people who have PTSD, the amygdala is more active. Over time, the hippocampus gets smaller. Seeking treatment for PTSD from the onset is imperative.
PTSD symptoms can show up as early as a month after a traumatic event or can take as long as several years. Symptoms will last for about a month and they can fluctuate over time, sometimes getting better, sometimes getting worse and can be triggered over the smallest, most insignificant of things.
While PTSD symptoms vary from person to person, some common symptoms experienced by people who are diagnosed with PTSD are the following:
- Vivid flashbacks to the traumatic event, feelings of relieving the event
- Nightmares and unpleasant memories
- Feeling anxious and nervous, easily startled
Symptoms of PTSD in men are angry and aggressive. They are more prone to violent outbursts and tempers and are more likely to develop a substance abuse problem. Women can also develop a dependency of drugs and alcohol but the rate is higher in men.
What Can I Do If Im Not Happy With My Treatment
If you arent happy with your treatment you can:
- talk to your doctor about your treatment options,
- ask for a second opinion,
- get an advocate to help you speak to your doctor,
- contact Patient Advice and Liaison Service , or
- make a complaint.
There is more information about these options below.
How can I speak to my doctor about my treatment options?
You can speak to your doctor about your treatment. Explain why you arent happy with it. You could ask what other treatments you could try.
Tell your doctor if there is a type of treatment that you would like to try. Doctors should listen to your preference. If you arent given this treatment, ask your doctor to explain why it isnt suitable for you.
Whats a second opinion?
A second opinion means that you would like a different doctor to give their opinion about what treatment you should have. You can also ask for a second opinion if you disagree with your diagnosis.
You dont have a right to a second opinion. But your doctor should listen to your reason for wanting a second opinion.
What is advocacy?
An advocate is independent from the mental health service. They are free to use. They can be useful if you find it difficult to get your views heard.
There are different types of advocates available. Community advocates can support you to get a health professional to listen to your concerns. And help you to get the treatment that you would like. NHS complaints advocates can help you if you want to complain about the NHS.
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Does Ptsd Ever Go Away
While PTSD can be debilitating, it also can be treated. People who experience mental health concerns after a traumatic event can seek medical help. With proper treatment and effective self-care, most PTSD sufferers can process their trauma and learn to cope with it. The effects of PTSD do not have to last.
Beyond Treatment: How Can I Help Myself
It may be very hard to take that first step to help yourself. It is important to realize that although it may take some time, with treatment, you can get better. If you are unsure where to go for help, ask your family doctor. You can also check NIMH’s Help for Mental Illnesses page or search online for mental health providers, social services, hotlines, or physicians for phone numbers and addresses. An emergency room doctor can also provide temporary help and can tell you where and how to get further help.
To help yourself while in treatment:
- Talk with your doctor about treatment options
- Engage in mild physical activity or exercise to help reduce stress
- Set realistic goals for yourself
- Break up large tasks into small ones, set some priorities, and do what you can as you can
- Try to spend time with other people, and confide in a trusted friend or relative. Tell others about things that may trigger symptoms.
- Expect your symptoms to improve gradually, not immediately
- Identify and seek out comforting situations, places, and people
Caring for yourself and others is especially important when large numbers of people are exposed to traumatic events .
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Emotional And Physical Coping Strategies
One of the most important ways to cope with PTSDand many other conditionsis to take care of your mental and physical wellness. There are many strategies that can work together with your treatment to not only help you cope with PTSD but to strengthen your mind and body in ways that can benefit you in your everyday life.
What Is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Posttraumatic stress disorder is a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, or rape or who have been threatened with death, sexual violence or serious injury.
PTSD has been known by many names in the past, such as shell shock during the years of World War I and combat fatigue after World War II, but PTSD does not just happen to combat veterans. PTSD can occur in all people, of any ethnicity, nationality or culture, and at any age. PTSD affects approximately 3.5 percent of U.S. adults every year, and an estimated one in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime. Women are twice as likely as men to have PTSD. Three ethnic groups U.S. Latinos, African Americans, and American Indians are disproportionately affected and have higher rates of PTSD than non-Latino whites.
People with PTSD have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their experience that last long after the traumatic event has ended. They may relive the event through flashbacks or nightmares they may feel sadness, fear or anger and they may feel detached or estranged from other people. People with PTSD may avoid situations or people that remind them of the traumatic event, and they may have strong negative reactions to something as ordinary as a loud noise or an accidental touch.
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Common Symptoms Of Ptsd
These are some common signs and symptoms that you might recognise. Everyone’s experience is different, so you may experience some, none or all of these things.
Reliving aspects of what happened
This can include:
- vivid flashbacks
- intrusive thoughts or images
- intense distress at real or symbolic reminders of the trauma
- physical sensations such as pain, sweating, nausea or trembling.
Alertness or feeling on edge
This can include:
- panicking when reminded of the trauma
- being easily upset or angry
- extreme alertness, also sometimes called ‘hypervigilance’
- disturbed sleep or a lack of sleep
- irritability or aggressive behaviour
- finding it hard to concentrate including on simple or everyday tasks
- being jumpy or easily startled
My heart was constantly racing and I felt permanently dizzy. I couldn’t leave the house and became afraid of going to sleep as I was convinced I was going to die.
Avoiding feelings or memories
- feeling like you have to keep busy
- avoiding anything that reminds you of the trauma
- being unable to remember details of what happened
- feeling emotionally numb or cut off from your feelings
- feeling physically numb or detached from your body
- being unable to express affection
- doing things that could be self-destructive or reckless
- feeling like you can’t trust anyone
- feeling like nowhere is safe
- feeling like nobody understands
- blaming yourself for what happened
- overwhelming feelings of anger, sadness, guilt or shame.
Why does PTSD have physical effects?
The Impact Trauma Can Have On Your Daily Functioning
Trauma affects even the most resilient among us and can include anything from isolated incidents, such as surviving an active shooter in a public location or narcissistic abuse in an intimate relationship, to severe and prolonged abuse or neglect occurring in childhood.
Statistics suggest a lifetime estimate of approximately 6.8% for PTSD diagnosis, which is a small portion relative to those who experience trauma. Thus, on average, approximately 7 out of 100 people will go on to develop symptoms associated with PTSD after experiencing a significant traumatic event, with an average estimate of 7.5 million to 8 million people per year developing the disorder.
The effects of post-traumatic stress can be lifelong, chronic, and highly variable. Children who are abused or neglected may develop symptoms of PTSD or cPTSD, compromising their ability to function as independent adults others may not develop any symptoms or milder symptoms. Issues with self-worth, self-love, feelings of uselessness, and suicidal ideation are commonly reported in those with PTSD or cPTSD. Those who experience abuse in childhood are more susceptible to being re-traumatized later in life with unhealthy adult relationships. PTSD often includes both short-term effects immediately following a traumatic event and more chronic, long-term effects.
Short-term or immediate effects may include:
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What Does Ptsd Do To A Person
What does PTSD do to a person? It keeps them from functioning, even after they survive whats likely the worst thing that will ever happen to them.
After recovering from a car accident, Robert stopped driving altogether. He cant even sit in his car without feeling like the wreck is happening all over again. Starting the ignition isnt even an option.
Following a violent assault after an evening out with friends, Mary refuses to participate in social events. She can leave her apartment for work, but she cant bring herself to leave at night.
Bob rebuilt his home after a hurricane, but he lives with constant anxiety that another storm will destroy his home and uproot his life again.
These people all show symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is a mental health condition that leaves a person unable to function in their daily lives. It results from the brains inability to process a traumatic event. PTSD often causes nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, and withdrawal, but you can treat it with proper care.
How Does Ptsd Affect A Persons Life
Trauma responses are variable. Not everyone exposed to a traumatic happening even the same traumatic event will experience PTSD. Trauma exposure doesnt guarantee a trauma diagnosis. And PTSD symptoms that subside in less than a month are a lower-level traumatic stress disorder, Acute Stress Disorder.
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What Should I Know About Participating In Clinical Research
Clinical trials are research studies that look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat diseases and conditions. Although individuals may benefit from being part of a clinical trial, participants should be aware that the primary purpose of a clinical trial is to gain new scientific knowledge so that others may be better helped in the future.
Researchers at NIMH and around the country conduct many studies with patients and healthy volunteers. Talk to your health care provider about clinical trials, their benefits and risks, and whether one is right for you. For more information, visit NIMH’s clinical trials webpage.
Support Is Important For Recovery
Many people experience some of the symptoms of PTSD in the first two weeks after a traumatic event, but most recover with the help of family and friends. For this reason, for a diagnosis of PTSD is not made until a month after the event. Treatment does not usually start for at least two or more weeks after a traumatic experience. However if the event is very distressing and emotions and reactions are intense, it is advisable to seek help as early as possible to understand what is happening and help recovery to start.
It is important during the first few days and weeks after a traumatic event to get whatever help is needed. This may include accessing information, people and resources that can help you to recover. Support from family and friends may be all that is needed. Otherwise, a doctor is the best place to start to get further help.
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