Out of the Storm is an information and support site for adults with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), also known as Complex Trauma and in the case of children, Developmental Trauma. At OOTS we prefer “Relational Trauma Response” to Complex PTSD because it is not as pathologizing and puts the focus on the people who caused our trauma rather than us as disordered. We use CPTSD however, because it is what mental health professionals, health insurers and other sectors use.
Complex PTSD is a psychological stress injury which may develop in childhood or adulthood. It results from ongoing or repeated trauma of a relational nature (e.g., emotional/sexual/physical abuse; neglect/abandonment; domestic violence, harassment), over which the person has little or no control, and from which there is no real or perceived hope of escape. This accumulation of trauma distinguishes Complex PTSD from the better known Post Traumatic Stress Order (PTSD) which involves a single traumatic event or a group of events of limited duration (e.g., witnessing a tragedy, being the victim of a car accident, short term military combat).
Complex PTSD was only recently accepted by one of two main diagnostic manuals used worldwide, the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases Edition 11. It is not yet in the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual in which it is included under PTSD.
The Tip of the Iceberg?
Although there are no comprehensive statistics available regarding the incidence of Complex PTSD, Pete Walker (2013) gives us an indication of how many people may be suffering from this disorder when he writes, "Renowned traumatologist, John Briere, is said to have quipped that if Complex PTSD were ever given its due .... the DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders used by all mental health professionals) would shrink to the size of a thin pamphlet."
We can, however, look to various organizations around the world to get an idea of just how many people may be suffering from Complex PTSD. According to a study by the Centres for Disease Control in the United States in 2008 there were over three million reports of physical, sexual, psychological abuse and neglect cases involving 770,000 children from birth to age seventeen at a cost of 124 billion dollars in that year alone (Fang, Brown, Florence & Mercy, 2012). Those who do not receive treatment are likely to develop Complex PTSD and comorbid physical and mental health conditions which involve ongoing costs for treatment and support services in adulthood.
Consider the following estimates of Australian adults suffering from childhood abuse and trauma (Kezelman, Hossack, Stavroupoulos & Burley, 2015):
Childhood trauma affects a very significant number of Australian adults. When considering child abuse alone i.e. sexual, physical and emotional there are an estimated 3.7 million adult survivors in Australia. For childhood trauma more broadly the number is an estimated at 5 million Australian adults. [2. Wider definitions of childhood trauma include, in addition to abuse in all its forms, neglect, growing up with domestic and community violence and the traumatic impact on children in experiencing a parental divorce or other relationship breakdown, death of a parent, an alcoholic or drug addicted parent, or a parent affected by mental illness or other significant mental health problem.]
Five million in Australia alone.
The World Service Organization for Adult Children of Alcoholics estimates that as many as 300 million adults around the world are traumatically affected by addiction. And yet this is only the tip of the iceberg. When one factors in those who suffer ongoing exposure to other forms of trauma such as poverty, homelessness, discrimination, exploitation and extrapolates, the numbers are staggering to contemplate.
In the face of these numbers, the mission of Out of the Storm is to provide online information and peer-to-peer support for those affected by the disorder, and to join in the effort by individuals and organizations to:
raise awareness about Complex PTSD (Relational Trauma Response);
provide a safe and respectful forum for survivors to connect, share their lived experiences, learn from one another, and focus on recovery;
create an evolving knowledge/resource base about the lived experience of relational trauma and academic research into Complex Trauma
advocate for more and improved trauma informed treatment and services.
Fang, X., Brown, D., Florence, C. and Mercy, J. (2012). The economic burden of child maltreatment in the United States and implications for prevention, Child Abuse and Neglect: The International Journal, 36(2), 156-165.
Kezelman, C., Hossack, N., Stavroupoulos, P. & Burley, P. (2015). The cost of unresolved childhood trauma and abuse in adults in Australia. Retrieved from: http://www.blueknot.org.au/WHO-WE-ARE/Our-Documents/Publications
Morrison, L., Alcantara, A., Conover, K., Salerno, A., Cleek, A., Parker, G. & McKay, M. (2015). Harnessing the Learning Community Model to Integrate Trauma-Informed Care Principles in Service Organizations New York: The McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research, New York University Silver School of Social Work. Retrieved from: http://mcsilver.nyu.edu/sites/default/files/reports/TIC-Implementation-Report.pdf.
Walker, P. (2013). Complex PTSD: From surviving to thriving. USA: Azure Coyote.
World Service Organization of Adult Children of Alcoholics. http://www.adultchildren.org/member-GlobalFellowship