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Comparing Standard and Complex PTSD

Dr. Laura Tanzini

Post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD, is a stress-related disorder that impacts a great deal of people who have experienced trauma in their past. When this disorder was first recognized, it was believed to only be something experienced by soldiers who’d seen battle; but since then, we’ve learned that anyone who has experienced a serious trauma can experience PTSD.

More recently, psychologists have come to believe that there is another form of PTSD, which is being referred to as complex PTSD, or C-PTSD. Here’s what you need to know about the differences between these two types of PTSD.

Simple PTSD

Simple PTSD typically develops in individuals who have experienced sudden, traumatic, one-time events. These events might include:

  • Military combat
  • Vehicle accidents
  • Natural disasters
  • Sexual assault
  • School shootings
  • Workplace violence
  • Robbery or other violent crime
  • Witnessing acts of extreme violence

The important thing to note here is that these events are one-time occurrences. Those who have experienced such events and survived may develop PTSD, which can result in severe anxiety, flashbacks or nightmares or the event, avoidance of anything reminding them of the events (e.g., avoiding riding in a car after a serious car accident), and difficulty resuming their normal daily lives.

Despite its new moniker, simple PTSD is anything but simple for those that have it, and symptoms can last for years and become significantly worse without treatment. For those experiencing PTSD, support groups and therapy can frequently help, and symptoms can decrease over time. In some severe cases, the one impacted or their loved ones may want to consider inpatient treatment centers for more in-depth treatment options.

Complex PTSD

Complex PTSD differs from simple PTSD in one major way: The cause of the trauma is a long-term or repeated traumatic event. Some examples of events that can cause C-PTSD include:

  • Childhood abuse
  • Domestic abuse
  • Human trafficking
  • Repeated sexual abuse
  • Being held as a prisoner of war
  • Living in a war-torn region and witnessing frequent violence as a result
  • Prolonged or repeated instances of bullying
  • Living in extreme poverty

Victims of these types of events can have many of the same symptoms as those with simple PTSD. However, they will also frequently experience other symptoms, such as consistent feelings of shame, guilt, or a negative self-image; difficulties forming relationships; feelings of isolation and alienation; trouble regulating their emotions, especially anger and sadness; persistent suicidal thoughts; trouble remembering the events that traumatized them; or feelings of hopelessness and despair.

In cases of C-PTSD, the changes to a person’s mental and emotional state are much more ingrained and, therefore, treatment can be much more difficult. Standard PTSD treatments are frequently insufficient on their own, as they don’t often address the deep-set changes to the victim’s personality as a result of the trauma. For this reason, it’s extremely important that the individual seeks out appropriate treatment specifically for C-PTSD.

If you or a loved one has experienced prolonged trauma, but you’re thinking, “There is no PTSD treatment near me designed specifically for C-PTSD,” please consider reaching out to us. At Kinder in the Keys Treatment Center, we understand that C-PTSD requires a unique treatment plan, and Dr. Laura, as well as the rest of the team, is prepared to work with you to help you achieve a healthier, happier state of mind. Contact us today to learn more about the best residential mental healthy facility in Florida.