Complex PTSD (sometimes called “Disorder of Extreme Stress”) is found among people who have been exposed to prolonged traumatic circumstances or several traumatic events occurring at different times, especially during childhood, such as childhood sexual abuse.
Developmental research is revealing that many brain and hormonal changes may occur as a result of early, prolonged trauma, and can contribute to many long term behavioural and emotional difficulties including; impulsivity, aggression, sexual acting out, eating disorders, alcohol/drug abuse, self destructive actions, intense rage, depression, panic, dissociation (blanking out), and amnesia.
Some people may experience only mild difficulties, while other people may have severe difficulties involving many of the above issues.
The extent of someone’s difficulties will depend on many factors such as the nature and duration of the trauma as well as the person’s other life experiences.
The things people with PTSD may experience include:
- Intense fear, helplessness or horror about their experience.
- Re-experiencing of the event with intrusive memories, flashbacks and nightmares.
- Feeling distressed, anxious or panicky when exposed to things which remind them of the event.
- Avoidance of anything that reminds them of the trauma.
- Bad memories and tension will often result in difficulties with sleeping and concentrating.
- Sufferers may also feel angry, irritable and be hypervigilant (feel jumpy or on their guard all the time).
It is important to remember that the above symptoms are a normal response to a traumatic experience.
The re-experiencing of the event with flashbacks accompanied by genuine anxiety and fear are the mind’s way of trying to make sense of an extremely scary experience. They are not a sign individual ‘weakness’ or inability to cope. Over time these feelings will usually settle but if not then can result in problems.
“The memory of that time wouldn’t go away, it was so bad and I was in so much pain, I felt completely out of control and thought something was seriously wrong, that I was going die. I couldn’t stop crying every time I thought about it”.
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