In Part 1 we covered the challenges of having Complex PTSD in social spaces, and the various ways symptoms manifest. Here we'll go over the private struggles CPTSD can present. Private does not necessarily mean personal in this context. Many of these symptoms will be apparent to the people closest to you. Particularly anyone who lives with you, as some of the symptoms come about unexpectedly.
Symptoms of the Mind
Complex PTSD is unique in the way it affects the mind. You may go from depressive thoughts to anxious ones in a very short span of time. Sometimes you'll experience both in the same moment. It's not uncommon to hear survivors say they struggle with anxiety and depression. Here's how:
You woke up like this. You haven't even stepped foot out of bed yet and you are struggling to find a reason to do so. Usually a sign of persistent participation in solo pity parties. These lead to intrusive thoughts that take on a gloomy quality. I characterize these thoughts as being "passively destructive" in nature. They are similar to neglect.
Low mood/ Loss of Interest- Simply put, you know you should care, you used to care, but you don't anymore, and that's that.
Despondency - Manifests as making things up about the way others value you without objective feedback. (example, "If I didn't show up for work today no one would care. They probably wouldn't even notice").
Feeling Helpless - When it's hard to assess the situation it becomes even harder to feel like you have any choice in the matter - which happens to be your life. Helplessness can become a vicious cycle with CPTSD. In extreme cases culminating into suicidal thoughts.
The word activity comes to mind. You may experience the symptoms listed in this section without having the physical or mental stamina required to concentrate on productive tasks. The mental activity is being funneled toward thoughts related to the trauma.
Flashbacks - Especially in the early stages of recovery when we are easily triggered and harassed with intrusive thoughts about the event(s).
Obsession with Avenging Yourself - Actively fantasizing about ways to set things straight. Being preoccupied with the damage done in all areas of your life.
(emotional. physical. financial. social standing. etc.)
If you were abused as a child you may envision how your life could be different if you were never subjected to such horrible fate.
Issues with Emotional Regulation - Evaluating your thoughts and feelings before reacting to them can be difficult. As a result you may experience outbursts such as crying, yelling, or have panic attacks.
Symptoms within the Body
If the CPTSD symptoms of the mind can dampen moods or disrupt a healthy thought process then the physical symptoms have a similar effect on the body. This section gives an overview of what to look for:
Low energy/ Sluggishness- Constantly feeling tired even when you have had adequate rest.
Sudden changes in appetite and weight
Digestive issues - Constipation, nauseousness or frequent vomiting
Problems sleeping - Insomnia, Night Terrors, Nightmares, etc.
In CPTSD Symptoms Part 1: Surviving Society, we covered the innate distrust survivors have for others stemming from repeated trauma. When alone feelings intensify because our guard is down and true despair can take over. Dwelling in the idea of helplessness, hopelessness is born.
Alone with our emotional thinking (not based on facts) we begin to believe others are just as helpless as we are, or unwilling to assist in resolving the issue.
It should be mentioned
Many sites include searching for a rescuer as a symptom of CPTSD. Searching for a rescuer is a behavioral adaptation commonly known as learned helplessness. It is not a symptom.
If you've read my story, you know I don't believe in hope, luck, or put my trust in man. So, I will address this phenomenon in depth in future posts.
Steps Forward: Keep it Clean
Life is messy. Our job on the journey toward happier days is to keep house. I'm not perfect but these steps always work for me:
Wash- Gain clarity in one area at a time. Select one symptom and simply observe the way it's negatively impacting your life. Take notes as they arise. Ask for help or look the topic up on your preferred search engine. There is something out there for everyone try Google, Youtube, or Pinterest.
Rinse- Regain control over your emotions. Drown out any residual self-deprecating thoughts with an attitude of tolerance and goodwill towards yourself. Notice I didn't say have a full-blown conversation with that part of yourself. You're only human. Remember, progress over perfection.
Repeat- Start fresh and address the next symptom knowing you are more than capable of getting better and achieving your goals.
Sign up for my CPTSD Toolkit. It's your cheat sheet on trigger types ,CPTSD episode prevention, and after care. I've also included journal prompts for introspection and what to do in a crisis. I know you'll love it!
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