What Is the Difference Between PTSD and Complex PTSD?

What Is the Difference Between PTSD and Complex PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that can develop in a person that has experienced a traumatic event. A traumatic event is anything that causes a person to experience unexpected shock, fear, or danger. PTSD can also be caused by a sudden loss or life change. Trauma can look different to different people. We are all unique, and we all have different abilities to process intense experiences.

While it is natural to experience a variety of stress responses during and for some time after a traumatic experience, most people recover from these stress responses naturally. The intense feelings are supposed to resolve themselves once the imminent threat is no longer present. 

If a person continues to experience triggers of their sympathetic nervous system because of the memory of a traumatic event, they may be experiencing PTSD. They may feel anxious or stressed when there is no cause for that response. This is especially problematic if it starts interfering with a person’s career, relationships, or ability to function in their daily life.

Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health disorder that occurs when a person is subjected to repeated traumas over a long period of time. It is most often associated with experiences like childhood abuse and domestic violence. When a person experiences prolonged trauma, it can cause problems with their memory. It may also negatively influence the development of a person’s personality.

Having repeated traumatic experiences can make it difficult for a person to regulate and express emotions. They might have anger issues or struggle with depression. Often individuals who are experiencing the effects of complex PTSD will have low self-confidence. When a person has had tumultuous life experiences, it might lead them to have difficulty trusting other people as well. Relationships are difficult to maintain because of these issues.

Co-occurring disorders often occur in people struggling with complex PTSD symptoms, such as depression and anxiety. Individuals coping with symptoms of complex PTSD may turn to unhealthy behaviors when trying to cope. Unfortunately, substance use disorder (SUD) is common in co-occurring disorders. If a person has developed habits that are risky or unhealthy, they will need treatment for these as well. For successful recovery, it will be crucial to treat the person as a whole. 

Treatment for Complex PTSD

The treatment for complex PTSD can be very similar to PTSD. The process will most likely include psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, and/or medication to alleviate symptoms. During the therapeutic process, you will gain a better understanding of your trauma. You will be able to determine how it is affecting you and be able to set goals for improvement. During the course of treatment, you will learn to identify your triggers. Therapy will help you develop coping skills and tools to manage your symptoms.

An important factor in the therapy process is developing trust with your therapist. When you can build confidence in yourself and learn that your therapist can be relied on, it will help you develop the ability to do the same thing with others in your life. Once you have a new set of skills, you can begin to use those skills in your relationships with others. You will gradually start to develop friendships, be more successful in your pursuits at work or school, and develop hobbies that will improve your success in recovery. 

Having a strong support system can also be a major factor for most people. When the people around you are aware and educated about complex PTSD, they can help you through your treatment process. When you are living with complex PTSD, you may need long-term therapy and support in all areas of your life. Communicating your thoughts, feelings, and needs will be beneficial both for you and your loved ones.

Habits That Can Help With PTSD and Complex PTSD

Dealing with symptoms of PTSD or complex PTSD can make your life feel chaotic and out of control. There are some helpful habits that you can add to your routine that will help you to feel calmer and in control. Try to think of your health and mental health as interconnected. A holistic approach to managing your symptoms can be highly effective.

Ensure Physical Wellness

The most critical foundation you can establish for improving your mental health is making sure you are taking care of your physical needs. When your body is getting everything it needs, it can function at its peak, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your mental health. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water and making healthy food choices. Also, ensure you get plenty of sleep and a fair amount of physical exercise. 

Utilize Social Support

When you feel overwhelmed, avoiding anything extra in your life can be tempting. Isolating yourself from friends and loved ones can negatively affect your mental health. You need support from your friends and family. Spending quality time with people you have mutual love and respect with can help you thrive. 

Engage in Mindfulness

Mindfulness activities will also help you balance all the things you have going on. Activities like meditation and yoga can be beneficial for soothing your central nervous system and quieting your mind. Journaling your thoughts and feelings can also be a helpful tool. You will be able to recognize patterns in your thought processes and identify triggering events. 

It is important for you to stay present and be in the moment in your own life. Behaviors that may be addictive or avoidance mechanisms can do more harm than good. Avoid drug and alcohol use whenever possible. Try to limit screen time, such as video games, social media scrolling, or endless hours of television. Pay attention to the things that enable you to avoid difficult feelings or that replace healthy activities like social connection.

Dealing with a mental health disorder can be overwhelming and sometimes frightening. Having an efficient mental health team in your corner is crucial to a successful recovery process. PTSD and complex PTSD require a unique and skillful evidence-based approach to treatment. At Alter Wellness Care, we have a compassionate team that provides a variety of resources to every individual in our care. From counseling to group therapies, we will work with you to develop a treatment plan that best fits your unique situation. We want to see you overcome obstacles and thrive. Call us today at (866) 311-3510 to find out how we can support you and your loved ones.   

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