Understanding C-PTSD

Extreme PTSD. Learn more about what it is, who is at risk.

Complex PTSD

As someone who struggles with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, I felt called to write this article. Within minutes of doing a search for this term, you will find there aren't nearly as many articles on the condition when compared to PTSD. Keep digging and you will learn it's not recognized as a mental illness in the DSM-5. So what does that mean for someone with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

It means your experiences are just as valid as someone suffering from PTSD. It's complicated because it is extreme. Individuals with C-PTSD have endured continued exposure to multiple traumatic events and experiences.


According to the symptoms recognized by the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5), most people who suspect they have CPTSD would also be diagnosed with the traditionally recognized PTSD. While recovery may take longer or incorporate novel therapeutic strategies the treatment plan should not stray too far from what has been proven to work for our fellow survivors.

You can read my article on the 20 symptoms associated with PTSD listed in DSM-5 *here.

Risk Factors

PTSD is the result of one traumatic experience that continues to trouble the survivor. One point that should not be overlooked is CPTSD is cumulative, meaning the person involved has been in a vulnerable state (particularly at the mercy of others) repeatedly providing the opportunity for the trauma to mount in severity.

Examples of CPTSD risk factors and the people who experience them include:

  • Prolonged exposure to narcissistic abuse

  • Domestic Violence

  • Constant harassment, bullying, or exploitation

  • Ongoing community violence

  • Chronic poverty and/or homelessness

  • The threat of and/or ongoing physical or sexual abuse

  • Severe child neglect

  • Prolonged exposure to war

  • Torture

  • Displacement or refugee status

  • Prolonged exposure to death

  • First responders or professionals tasked with working in inhumane environments

If you believe you or someone you know has CPTSD learn more about the symptoms and here.

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