Childhood Trauma And Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Childhood Trauma And Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Survivors of extreme trauma often suffer persistent anxiety, phobias, panic, depression, identity, and relationship problems Many times, the set of symptoms the individual presents with are not connected to the original trauma by those providing treatment (as certainly was the case for me in the early years of my treatment, necessitating me to undertake my own extensive research, of which this blog is partly a result) and, of course, treatment will not be forthcoming if the survivor suffers in silence.

Any treatment not linked to the original trauma will tend to be ineffective as THE UNDERLYING TRAUMA IS NOT BEING ADDRESSED. Also, there is a danger that a wrong diagnosis may be given; possibly the diagnosis will be one that may be interpreted, by the individual given it, as pejorative, degrading, and demeaning (such as a personality disorder).

Individuals who have survived protracted and severe childhood trauma often present with a very complex set of symptoms and have developed, as a result of their unpleasant experiences, deep-rooted problems affecting their personality and how they relate to others. The psychologist, Kolb, has noted that the post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms survivors of severe maltreatment in childhood might develop ‘may appear to mimic every personality disorder’ and that ‘severe personality disorganization’ can emerge.

Another psychologist, Lenore Terr, has differentiated between two specific types of trauma: TYPE 1 and TYPE 2. TYPE 1 refers to symptoms resulting from a single trauma; TYPE 2 refers to symptoms resulting from protracted and recurring trauma, the hallmarks of which are:

– emotional numbing

– dissociation

– cycling between passivity and explosions of rage

This second type of trauma response has been referred to as COMPLEX POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER, and more research needs to be conducted on it; however, it is currently thought its main symptoms are :

1) Alterations in affect regulation, including:

– persistent dysphoria

– chronic suicidal preoccupation

– self-injury

– explosive or extremely inhibited anger (may alternate)

– compulsive or extremely inhibited sexuality (may alternate)


2)Alterations in consciousness, including:

– amnesia or hypermnesia for traumatic events

– transient dissociative episodes

– depersonalization/derealization

– reliving experiences, either in the form of intrusive post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms or in the form of ruminative preoccupation


3) Alterations in self-perception, including :

– a sense of helplessness or paralysis of initiative

– shame, guilt, and self-blame

– a sense of defilement or stigma

– a sense of complete difference from others (may include a sense of specialness, utter aloneness, belief no other person can understand, or nonhuman identity)


4) Alterations in perceptions of the perpetrator, including :

– preoccupation with the relationship with the perpetrator (includes preoccupation with revenge)

– unrealistic attribution of total power to the perpetrator (although the perpetrator may have more power than the clinician treating the individual is aware of)

– idealization or paradoxical gratitude

– a sense of special or supernatural relationship

– acceptance of belief system or rationalizations of the perpetrator


5) Alterations in relations with others, including :

– isolation and withdrawal

– disruption in intimate relationships

– repeated search for rescuer (may alternate with isolation and withdrawal)

– persistent distrust

– repeated failures of self-protection


6) Alteration in systems of meaning :

– loss of sustaining faith

– a sense of hopelessness and despair


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