Very frequently those suffering complex PTSD have been extremely badly cared for or have been seriously psychologically harmed by those who were supposed to care for them. This, not surprisingly, can lead to a desperate and overwhelming need to be cared for as an adult. Tragically, though, such help is very often extremely hard to come by.
In rare cases, this situation can cause the complex PTSD sufferer to take extraordinary measures in a desperate attempt to secure some of the caring attention which others take for granted but that has eluded him/her, perhaps even from birth.
Three of these rare measures are:
These can be brought on by psychological factors such as severe stress. Stress involving extreme feelings of shame (as is often the case in people suffering from complex PTSD) may be especially likely to precede pseudo-seizures. The main difference between seizures and pseudoseizures is that the former involves brain electrical activity abnormalities whereas this is not the case with pseudoseizures. The term ‘pseudoseizure’ is used less frequently than in the past as it has been criticized for having connotations that such seizures are deliberately faked. Because of this, the term psychogenic non-epileptic seizure (PNES) is now more commonly used. However, just because PNES may not be deliberately faked, this does not rule out the possibility that the attacks may, on occasion, be unconsciously motivated by a desperate need for psychological help and to signal extreme mental distress.
A study by Ka Tung Vivianne et al. (2019) asserts that some individuals who experience various forms of childhood psychological trauma, in particular, bullying (e.g. being given a cruel nickname at school relating to one’s appearance) and/or neglect (e.g. as a young child, neglect experienced included neglect by parents of the child’s appearance) may undergo cosmetic surgery in adulthood to reduce the degree of psychological distress they feel in connection with these adverse childhood experiences. The authors of the study concluded that, in some instances, such surgery can ameliorate the person’s suffering by improving body image which, in turn, contributes to a more positive frame of mind in general.
However, as Harth points out, requests for cosmetic surgery are motivated by psychological and emotional factors as well as by trends in society (e.g. placing extreme emphasis on the importance of physical beauty). Because of this, vulnerable individuals suffering from psychological disturbances such as complex PTSD may feel a particular pressure to undertake cosmetic surgery and become addicted to the process and, in so doing, ignore risks, side effects and complications repeated procedures may entail. Harth also alerts us to the fact that those suffering from psychological disturbances such as complex PTSD may be driven to seek treatments due to unhealthy reasons such as feelings of inferiority, social phobia (which involves obsessively worrying about what others are thinking of one), and body dysmorphic disorder, ultimately leading to polysurgical addiction. Such addiction may also be fuelled, as already alluded to above, by a general need to be shown care, whatever guise such care may take.
The term ‘double doctoring’ refers to a situation in which a patient clandestinely registers with more than one doctor to obtain more of a particular drug or an additional drug that s/he would not otherwise have been able to obtain (i.e. the original doctor would not prescribe a higher dose of medication nor prescribe additional medication. This can occur when an individual is in severe distress and is not getting the relief from mental suffering s/he craves from the medication originally prescribed. Unfortunately, it can also occur when individuals obtain medications by ‘double doctoring’ in order to sell them which, of course, constitutes illegal drug dealing.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).
Harth W, Hermes B. Psychosomatic disturbances and cosmetic surgery. J Dtsch Dermatol Ges. 2007 Sep;5(9):736-43. English, German. doi: 10.1111/j.1610-0387.2007.06293.x. PMID: 17760893.
Ip, Ka Tung Vivianne, and Wing Yee Ho. “Healing Childhood Psychological Trauma and Improving Body Image Through Cosmetic Surgery.” Frontiers in psychiatry vol. 10 540. 8 Aug. 2019, doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00540