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8 Signs You Might Be Suffering from Complex PTSD - Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (or C-PTSD) is a form of PTSD that develops when a person experiences repeated, prolonged trauma or abuse, often by someone they love or trust.

It causes similar symptoms to other types of PTSD; however, those suffering are often misdiagnosed as having another condition, such as borderline personality disorder.


If you think you might have complex PTSD but aren't sure where to start, here are some signs that could indicate you have this condition.

1. You Are in a Constant State of High Alert

As a result of trauma, the body enters a state of hypervigilance. It's when you are always on edge, looking for danger and anticipating threats.

You constantly scan your environment for anything that could be potentially dangerous; and your mind gravitates to the worst-case scenario. So, your body is always tense and alert, ready to respond to any perceived threat.

Therefore, you dislike spontaneity because it makes you feel vulnerable or unsafe. You want everything planned in advance so that there aren't any unexpected changes in plans or activity schedules.

2. You Have Difficulty Controlling Your Emotions

Emotional dysregulation is an issue that many trauma survivors face. It manifests as difficulty expressing emotions; being overwhelmed by them; and feeling like they are out of control or in conflict with each other.

It can be tricky to navigate your emotions when you have PTSD in general, but it's important to understand how they're affected.

Trauma survivors tend to experience strong emotional responses due to the brain being kicked into hyperarousal mode at the slightest prompt.

This leads them to not only experience heightened irritability or frustration, but also to feel anger more often than others.

3. You Get Flashbacks and/ or Intrusive Thoughts

Flashbacks usually happen suddenly and are often triggered by an external stimulus such as a smell, sound, or place.

When this happens, you experience sensory overload and begin to panic. You feel like the traumatic event is happening all over again and have trouble distinguishing between what is real and what is not.

Intrusive or unwanted, repetitive thoughts can also be a symptom of complex PTSD. These thoughts are generally negative in nature and can be more gradual.

Nevertheless, both can cause significant distress and interfere with your ability to function normally.

4. You Feel Like Your Emotions Come from Outside of You

Disassociation is another common symptom of PTSD. And it’s one of the hardest to talk about because it can sound rather strange and abstract.

If you have complex PTSD, it can feel like your emotions come from outside of you or like you’re an observer watching yourself from outside your body.

This feeling of being disconnected from your body and perceptions of reality, can also be a sense that you're not really in the world around you anymore. Everything seems distant, foggy, or hazy.

In other times, disassociation manifests as having significant gaps in memory, particularly if they relate to your trauma.

5. You Have Frequent Nightmares and Insomnia

Nightmares can be a symptom of complex PTSD. In fact, many people with the disorder experience them frequently.

This is because the emotions that are tied to traumatizing events are still present in your mind when you go to sleep which causes you to have vivid dreams, that repeat those traumatic events over and over again.

Insomnia is another common symptom that can be caused by hyperarousal, making it difficult to fall asleep.

6. Your Relationships Are Turbulent and Troubled

Complex PTSD can also affect your relationships including those with friends, family members, or romantic partners. You can feel like you don't deserve to be treated well or to be happy.

As a result, you likely stay in unhealthy relationships - because they feel familiar. If your trauma involved abuse from another person, you may also struggle with complicated feelings about the individual.

For example, you might obsess about them; or focus on revenge, instead of healing yourself and moving on with your life.

7. You Have Difficulty Concentrating

If you have complex PTSD, your concentration and problem-solving skills can be affected as well.

You may find that even small tasks are difficult to accomplish or that you have trouble following through with plans.

This is due to the fact that your brain has trouble regulating its attention span, making it difficult for you to focus on anything for long periods.

You may also notice lapses in judgment. When these symptoms are present, it can make simple tasks like driving difficult.

8. You Have Negative Thoughts About Yourself and the World

It's not uncommon for people with complex PTSD to develop a distorted sense of self. This can lead one to view themselves in a negative light, even when their behavior is entirely rational.

You may blame yourself for what happened to you during your trauma; or you feel as though you are somehow damaged at the core of your being, like there is something inherently wrong with you.

It’s also possible to feel isolated from other people. When stressors are more than you can handle, and there are no resources to help pull through the difficult times, it's easy to lose hope in humanity altogether.

As time goes on and these negative emotions continue to fester inside your heart and mind, this feeling can turn into despair or hopelessness. Complex PTSD is a very real condition, and if you suffer from it, you're not alone.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 8% of people will develop complex PTSD at some point in their lives.

It's important to remember that your symptoms are the result of some type of trauma, not your fault or choice.

Taking care of yourself by seeking treatment is an effective way to begin healing from complex PTSD.

Thanks for reading!

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