Do We Heal from CPTSD?
Recognizing c-PTSD symptoms
Can Post Traumatic Stress Disorder go away?
In recent years, PTSD, CPTSD, and Attachment or Developmental Disorder, have received much more deserved attention due to the impact it has had on veterans. I speak and write in this particular blog from the role of a trauma-informed therapist treating trauma.
The term specifically we’re discussing in this blog is Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (or complex PTSD, which is sometimes abbreviated to define c-PTSD as or as CPTSD). People really need help with therapy for treating their trauma. Read on, please!
CPTSD vs PTSD in the Covid-19 Pandemic
I believe during Covid 19, and the deployment of the Covid vaccine, as well as the isolation that has occurred during this pandemic, has been quite detrimental to those suffering from mental illness. This is including C-PTSD and why I say we really need to be aggressively treating this trauma.
Recently I attended training “Trauma, Adversity, and Healing” presented by the renowned Dr. James Seymour, Psychiatrist and Director of the Chrysalis Program at Sierra Tucson Residential Treatment Facility for Trauma and Addictions.
Post Traumatic Stress Response is Normal
Dr. Seymour also shared a new perspective about PTSD. According to a new perspective in the field of trauma, PTSD should not be treated as a disorder, but rather a NORMAL adaption and the response of the nervous system to a trauma.
So instead of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, we should use Post Traumatic Stress RESPONSE. We are actually not treating the trauma (clients survived traumatic events) but we assist in the recovery of the effects of trauma. We need to change coping mechanisms.
Unfortunately at this time, DSM-V does not have a category to describe what is in many cases developmental/attachment trauma related to childhood abuse and neglect.
It is also interesting to note that he also emphasizes using mind-body modalities such as dancing, singing, drumming, reiki, yoga, breathing to increase joy and social engagement.
There are two main goals for healing from trauma:
1. Improved quality of life.
2. Improved daily functioning.
Some of the objectives for healing from trauma include:
- Recognizing trauma is not my fault.
- Improved regulation of emotions and ability to experience and tolerate a variety of emotions including joy.
- Reduction in shame.
- Improved ability to form healthy relationships with others and ability to trust others.
- Increased mindfulness and self-awareness.
- Decreased at-risk behavior such as cutting and suicide attempts.
“From Surviving to Thriving”
According to Pete Walker, in his book titled Complex PTSD, “From Surviving to Thriving”, p. 22, in case of C-PTSD, “due to abuse/neglect several key developmental tasks have not been met and individuals were not able to develop a secure attachment to their parents/caregivers.”
The reason Complex PTSD occurs in children is that children are not yet able to develop a secure attachment with their parents or caregivers. This inability to develop attachment is also known as an Attachment or Developmental Disorder.
2013 Revised PTSD Diagnostic Criteria
In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association revised the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnostic criteria. This is in the fifth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5; 1). Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is included in a new category in DSM-5, Trauma, and Stressor-Related Disorders. Full copyrighted criteria are available from the American Psychiatric Association. Here I just list a few. Complex PTSD (C-PTSD) has not been included in DSMS as a separate disorder as of now. Even though in my opinion it should be as it presents a unique set of challenges.
PTSD can refer to a single traumatic event or several traumatic events throughout life that have a cumulative effect.
Traumatic Event Examples:
1. Childhood abuse/trauma/neglect
2. Being in an abusive relationship(s)
3. Natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, fires
4. Witnessing a violent crime
5. Sexual assault
6. Divorce or death
7. Illness, such as traumatic brain injury
8. Being in combat where one experienced or witnessed death and violence
To be Diagnosed with PTSD
To be diagnosed with PTSD, the person was exposed to death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence, or similar, including any kind of abuse or domestic violence, experiencing it directly or indirectly by observing it.Typical symptoms include nightmares, flashbacks, emotional distress, and intrusive thoughts.
For a person to meet the criteria for Post-traumatic stress disorder – a mental disorder, the symptoms need to last at least a month. They also experience distress and functional impairment in several key areas of life such as social and occupational.
Traumatic Memories Remain Locked & Hidden
It is vital to keep in mind several things with respect to triggers related to trauma. The first is that traumatic memories remain locked & hidden away in our bodies. This is why traditional “talk” therapy is just not enough. Bessel van der Kolk describes this process in his book “Body Keeps the Score.”
Under “normal” circumstances, the brain is able to process the emotions associated with an upsetting event. However, in the case of trauma, there might be fragmented pieces of memory. In many instances, especially if traumatic events were intense and happened early in life, the memories might be repressed. Therefore, no memories exist, at least not on a conscious level.
The Root Causes of Anxiety, Depression, and Panic Attacks
Memories are stored on a subconscious level and that’s why in my work I help my clients understand the root causes of anxiety, depression, and panic attacks by utilizing techniques such as hypnosis and NLP, Psych-K, and mental rehearsal, and changing subconscious programming.
However, the body keeps the memories and when we experience a trigger, such as noise, the body reacts with a “flight or fight response.” That serves as protection from the danger that might not be truly present. You see the brain perceives this as “this is happening right now!” It does not distinguish the past from the present.
Symptoms of Complex PTSD
One of the Complex post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms is called “emotional flashbacks”. We might react with increased heart rate, sweating, muscle tension, and shallow breathing among other things. When left untreated, people develop mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.
Therefore, in order to heal our bodies and our minds from Complex post-traumatic stress disorder, Attachment or Developmental Disorder, and CPTSD symptoms, we need to adopt numerous approaches. There are approaches in treating CPTSD (and even other disorders potentially) that not only focus on the mind & mental aspects but also detox toxic or negative emotions from our bodies that might have been repressed.
Healing Approaches to Complex PTSD
In my clinical practice I utilize several healing approaches:
2. Energy medicine such as Reiki and EFT-tapping
3. Bilateral tapping from Dr. Lauren Parnell
4. PsychK from Dr. Bruce Lipton and Rob Williams
5. Yoga Nidra
6. Alternate Nostril Breathing- Breathing practices
7. Mindfulness Therapy and meditation
8. Attachment Therapy
Other approaches that can be used include:
11. Somatic Experiencing (see Lynn Carol www.thetherapyspace.com)
12. Craniosacral therapy
Assisting my clients in Re-Parenting Themselves
As part of healing Complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and Attachment or Developmental Disorder, I assist my clients in “re-parenting” themselves and finding ways to meet these developmental tasks.
1. Achieve Self-acceptance
2. Clear sense of identity
3. Mindful Self-compassion
5. Capacity to draw comfort from relationship
6. Ability to relax
7. Capacity for full self-expression
8. Willpower and Motivation
9. Peace of Mind
10. Practice Self-care
11. Belief that life is a gift
12. Strong Self-esteem
13. Build Self-confidence
Treating Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
In summary, the real key in treating Complex post-traumatic stress disorder, (C-PTSD), and CPTSD symptoms is to understand the root causes and triggers. The best and most effective treatments for CPTSD assist clients to process traumatic memories (autobiographical, narrative, verbal memories, also called “explicit memory”); as well as “body memories” about events that we might not have a conscious recollection of the events.
Healing from CPTSD, Attachment, or Developmental Disorder and many types of traumas can ultimately take many years and the key is to find a compassionate therapist who has specialized training in trauma.
Perspective from a trauma-informed therapist
My name is Mateja Petje. I’m a Trauma-informed therapist as well as a CPTSD sufferer. In addition, I’m also the CEO of Holistic Coaching International. I suffer firsthand from CPTSD so I can recognize CPTSD symptoms all too well.
But, I also tend to believe this is a disorder that many more people suffer from than we realize. One of the reasons I have taken the time to write such an in-depth article about CPTSD is because this is actually the main focus of my practice. Treating trauma is my “passion work.”
Are you interested in working with me on your C-PTSD or Attachment or Developmental Disorder or in some other capacity? Contact me and let’s talk to see if we would be a good fit for one another. I offer a 15-minute free consultation during business hours. We can determine if I can help you.