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Understanding CPTSD (Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)

While you may have heard of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you may not be as familiar with the terms “complex trauma” or “complex post-traumatic stress disorder” (Complex PTSD, CPTSD, or C-PTSD). With this condition, your limbic system gets flooded with stress hormones and stays stuck in fight, flight, or freeze mode. You constantly feel on edge because the emotional trauma gets physically stuck in your body.

Complex PTSD profoundly impacts the health of our nervous systems because our difficult memories feel like they are happening to us in the present moment. This type of complex trauma is not related to a single accident like an attack or car accident but rather a series of traumas over a long time.

Sometimes with CPTSD, the experiences have taken place for months or years. Though it generally starts in childhood, CPTSD can develop from an adult traumatic onset episode or recurrent stressors.

CPTSD Symptoms

Living with PTSD can be difficult. In addition to feeling anxious most of the time, if you are experiencing Complex PTSD, you may have the following signs and symptoms:

  • Flashbacks
  • Memory lapses
  • Distorted sense of self
  • Inability to control your emotions
  • Hyperarousal
  • Unexplained upset stomach
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Challenged interpersonal relationships
  • Avoidance of certain circumstances/places
  • Substance use
  • Low self-esteem
  • Chronic health conditions
  • Nightmares
  • Depersonalization or derealization
  • Negative self-perception
  • Avoidance of upsetting people
  • Unexplained headaches
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Thoughts of suicide

Complex PTSD Causes may include

  • Sexual abuse
  • Incest
  • Ongoing physical abuse
  • Chronic neglect or abandonment
  • Medical abuse or medical trauma
  • Ongoing emotional abuse
  • Torture or being held captive
  • Enmeshment or engulfment trauma
  • Parentification (children taking on adult rules)
  • Human trafficking
  • Genocide campaigns
  • Living in a war zone or area of civil unrest

CPTSD Treatment Options

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Body-centered therapies
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Controlled breathing practices
  • Mindfulness practices like journaling
  • Focus on healthy sleep, nutrition, and exercise
  • Progressive muscular relaxation

When healing from Complex PTSD, it’s essential to find what works best for you. At Origins Behavioral HealthCare, we create personalized trauma-informed treatment programs to help you heal.

Here Are Some FAQs We Often Get Asked About CPTSD



With the proper treatment and support, your mental health will improve, and you don’t have to do it alone.

We can help. Call us today at 561-841-1296.