Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder C-PTSD symptoms and diagnostic criteria

Since CPTSD isn’t in the DSM-5 yet, it may be hard to get an official diagnosis; your doctor may not be aware that it even exists. Those who live with PTSD have a heightened fight, flight, or freeze response. This creates an ongoing sense of danger along with other symptoms, like flashbacks or nightmares, even when the danger has long since passed. You may experience frequent arguments over miscommunications or have emotional outbursts toward those you love.

  • The latter besides the high comorbidity with complex PTSD[4], also shares some of the core symptoms described in complex PTSD especially related to impaired relationships with others, dissociative symptoms, impulsive or reckless behaviours, irritability and self-destructive behaviours.
  • Before you can understand how to control PTSD blackouts, you need to understand what’s causing them in the first place.
  • If the world seems dreamlike or fake, you may be experiencing derealization.
  • Individuals with PTSD who exhibited symptoms of depersonalization and derealization tended to respond better to treatments that included cognitive restructuring and skills training in affective and interpersonal regulation in addition to exposure-based therapies (7,8).
  • When this happens, a person’s brain can perceive that they are in danger, even if they are not.
  • If you feel like you need some extra support, the National Center for PTSD has several resources, including a PTSD coaching app for your phone.

During in vivo exposure, the person confronts triggering stimuli outside of therapy as part of a plan they agree on with their therapist. When effective, this process helps to desensitize the person to the trauma so that they can eventually recall the memory without having a strong adverse reaction to it. After preparation and practice, the therapist will ask the person to recall the traumatic memory. The therapist will move a finger from side to side, and the person will follow the movement with their eyes. Clinicians are becoming more aware of the differences between PTSD and complex PTSD. However, because complex PTSD is a relatively new diagnosis, some clinicians could still diagnose another condition instead.

Symptoms and signs of C-PTSD

When these supplementary personalities take over, the person may do things that are out of character for their main state, even things they find abhorrent. In the most extreme cases, these dissociative states may persist for days on end, leaving the person with no memory of what they have been doing during the interval. While similar to PTSD in many ways, C-PTSD has features that make it unique. This pattern of similarity and difference is the product of their overlapping but distinct causes.

If you’ve had trauma and feel its impact on your daily life, help is available. You may have feelings of shame or guilt related ptsd blackouts to the traumatic experience. You may also feel like you’re to blame or even permanently changed in some negative way.

Publication types

The three additional clusters of symptoms beyond core PTSD symptoms refer to emotional regulation, negative self-concept and interpersonal relational dysfunction[24]. Complex PTSD is defined by symptom clusters mainly resembling an enhanced PTSD, with symptoms such as shame, feeling permanently damaged and ineffective, feelings of threat, social withdrawal, despair, hostility, somatisation and a diversity from the previous personality. It also regularly presents with serious disturbances in self-organisation in the form of affective dysregulation, consciousness, self-perception with a negative self-concept and perception of the penetrator(s), often causing dysfunctional relations with others leading to interpersonal problems[1,5-7]. One goal of treatment is to attempt to develop or recapture feelings of trust in others and the world. This can take time, but participating in healthy relationships is a positive step. It is part of CBT and centers around the idea that people with PTSD will unconsciously avoid anything that reminds them of their traumatic experiences.

By comparison, dissociation may be an alien and unfamiliar experience to many people. Treatment for the two conditions is similar, but you may want to discuss some of your additional symptoms of complex trauma that your doctor or therapist may also need to address. When the underlying trauma is repeated and ongoing, however, some mental health professionals make a distinction between PTSD and its more intense sibling, complex PTSD (C-PTSD). At MedicineNet, we believe it is important to take charge of your health through measures such as a living healthy lifestyle, practicing preventative medicine, following a nutrition plan, and getting regular exercise. Understanding your symptoms and signs and educating yourself about health conditions are also a part of living your healthiest life.

Complex PTSD Symptoms

These behaviors can develop as a way to deal with or try to forget about the original trauma and the resulting symptoms in the present. People who have PTSD or complex PTSD can react to different life situations as if they are reliving their trauma. A person with complex PTSD may experience symptoms in addition to those that characterize PTSD. Your symptoms may feel intense, and you might wonder if anyone else understands what you’re experiencing. If you live with C-PTSD, you might find that certain emotions or situations can bring on intense symptoms related to your trauma. You may also have trouble remembering parts of the traumatic experience or forget it happened at all.

PTSD is the result of a small number of impersonal dramatic and traumatic incidents (often just one), such as road accidents, witnessing a violent death, or being held hostage. By Matthew Tull, PhD

Matthew Tull, PhD is a professor of psychology at the University of Toledo, specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder. C-PTSD also can share signs and symptoms with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Although BPD doesn’t always have its roots in trauma, this is often the case. In fact, some researchers and psychologists advocate for putting BPD under the umbrella of C-PTSD in future editions of the DSM to acknowledge the link to trauma, foster a better understanding of BPD, and help people with BPD face less stigma.

How do doctors diagnose complex PTSD?

Although C-PTSD comes with its own set of symptoms, some believe the condition is too similar to PTSD (and other trauma-related conditions) to warrant a separate diagnosis. When it comes to C-PTSD, the harmful effects of oppression and racism can add layers to complex trauma experienced by individuals. Both PTSD and C-PTSD result from the experience of something deeply traumatic and can cause flashbacks, nightmares, and insomnia.