Complex Post Traumatic Stress Injury (Disorder) vs. Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (Disorder)


                                                                          MAGGIE THE THERAPY DOG

Did you know that PTSD has been reconsidered and is now a PTSI - Post Traumatic Stress Injury.  Think about it, when a trauma is experienced and a person is left with "wounds" are those wounds a disorder or could they be a normal response to an abnormal stressor?  Could they be signs of an injury?

(The following is an excerpt from C-PTSD From Surviving to Thriving, by Pete Walker, MFT.)

One type of PTSD results from a single traumatic incident like a car crash, being kidnapped, or natural disasters.

Complex PTSD (C-PTSD) is a more severe form of Post-traumatic stress disorder and results from abuse and/or neglect during our developmental years from birth until we leave home.  Neglect can be physical or emotional or both.

List of Common C-PTSD Symptoms

  •           Emotional flashbacks
  •           Tyrannical inner and or outer critic
  •           Toxic shame
  •           Self-abandonment
  •           Social anxiety
  •           Abject feelings of loneliness and abandonment
  •           Fragile self-esteem
  •           Attachment disorder
  •           Developmental arrests
  •           Relationship difficulties
  •           Radical mood vacillations
  •           Hair-trigger fight or flight response
  •           Oversensitivity to stressful situations
  •           Suicidal ideation

Emotional Flashbacks are perhaps the most noticeable and characteristic feature of C-PTSD.  Survivors of traumatizing abandonment are extremely susceptible to painful emotional flashbacks, which unlike PTSD do not typically have a visual component.  Emotional flashbacks are just that, flashbacks that, emotions from the past overcoming you in the present. Often people just feel like they don’t know why they feel such intense and seemingly out of the blue negative emotions. The emotions in an emotional flashback are usually terror, shame, anxiety, depression and the like.

Toxic Shame:  The Veneer of an Emotional Flashback
Toxic shame obliterates a C-PTSD survivors' self-esteem with and they can experience an overwhelming sense that they are loathsome, ugly, stupid, or fatally flawed.  Overwhelming self-disdain is typically a flashback to the way a person felt when suffering the contempt and visual skewering of his traumatizing parent.  Toxic shame can also be created by parental neglect and rejection.

C-PTSD is often misdiagnosed as an anxiety or depressive disorder including bipolar, narcissistic, codependent, autistic spectrum and borderline,  ADHD, ADD, Obsessive/compulsive disorder.

C-PTSD is caused by abuse or neglect during the developmental years from birth through teens, but mostly in our early years. A major factor in the development of C-PTSD is whether or not we had a healthy attachment to our primary caregiver from years 1-3.  That attachment sets the stage for all other relationships in our life, from cradle to grave,.unless a person is fortunate enough to get help.

If you would like to know more about C-PTSD, click here to go to Pete Walker’s website.

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Kim P. Frey, PhD, LCSW




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