Note: For terms you are unable to find in this glossary, please try The Psychology Dictionary or The Dictionary of Trauma & Dissociation Psychology Terms.


Abusive Cycle - This is the name for the ongoing rotation between destructive and constructive behavior which is typical of many dysfunctional relationships and families.

Adult Children - An adult child is a term commonly used to describe any grown adult who was exposed to emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child.

Aggression- See Raging.

Alienation - The act of cutting off or interfering with an individual's relationships with others.

"Always" and "Never" Statements - "Always" and "Never" Statements are declarations containing the words "always" or "never". They are commonly used but rarely true.

Amygdala - The Amygdala is a small region of the brain which plays a key role in emotional regulation, emotional memory and responses to emotional stimuli.

Amygdala Hijacking - An “amygdala hijacking” is a term first used by Daniel Goleman to describe immediate and intense emotional reactions which are out of proportion to the triggering event, and which take over the cognitive areas of the brain; feelings are ramped up while thinking is slowed. In the case of CPTSD the amygdala becomes over-reactive and hyper sensitive due to ongoing trauma. Thus, when someone with CPTSD perceives danger or a threat, the amygdala triggers more quickly and intensely than other people and resulting in what is referred to as an Emotional Flashback.

Angering - Angering is a one of four “processes of grieving” (angering, crying, verbal ventilation and feeling) in recovery from CPTSD described by Pete Walker in his book “CPTSD: From Surviving to Thriving” (2013, pp. 222 to 225).  It involves expression of one’s deeply held feelings of hurt, anger and even rage over the abuse or neglect at the hands of the perpetrator. It is important to point out that angering is not directed at the person who inflicted the trauma, but against the internalized version which in CPTSD commonly takes the form of a virulent and vicious Inner Critic. 

Attachment Needs - The term “attachment” refers to a lasting, emotional/psychological bond that is forged between people. Attachment needs are particularly important in infancy when children form a bond with primary caregivers and develop a sense of safety, security and self-esteem. Adults with CPTSD who grow up in an abusive or neglectful household do not have these needs met and, as a result, struggle with forming and maintaining healthy, intimate relationships in adulthood. According to Pete Walker (2013) in his book “CPTSD: From Surviving to Thriving” emotional neglect (unmet attachment needs) is the core wound in CPTSD.

Attachment Styles – Bowlby’s theory of attachment identifies four styles of attachment in people:

  • Secure – those with this style of attachment are secure in their sense of self and in the trusting others to respond to them in a safe, nurturing and fair manner. They are able to ask for assistance when needed and to reciprocate.
  • Fearful/Avoidant/Dismissive – those with this style are fearful of rejection and avoid intimacy and attachment with others. While they may appear self-sufficient and independent, this masks a deep fear of rejection/abandonment.
  • Anxious/Preoccupied – those with this style present as very anxious and demanding of others, needing constant reassurance and looking to others for their self-esteem and worth
  • Disorganized – the behaviour of those with this style is often chaotic and confusing (e.g., pulling others toward them then pushing them away).

According to Courtois (2014), unhealthy attachment styles are not “locked in” and may be replaced with “earned security” through therapy and other healthy relationships developed in recovery (p. 15).   Reference: Courtois, C. (2014). It’s not you, it’s what happened to you: Complex trauma and treatment. United States; Telemachus Press.

Autophobia - Self-Loathing.


Baiting - A provocative act used to solicit an angry, aggressive or emotional response from another individual.

Belittling, Condescending and Patronizing - This kind of speech is a passive-aggressive approach to giving someone a verbal put-down while maintaining a facade of reasonableness or friendliness.

Blaming - The practice of identifying a person or people responsible for creating a problem, rather than identifying ways of dealing with the problem.

Borderline Personality Disorder - Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) – Individuals with CPTSD are often misdiagnosed with BPD. The cluster of symptoms associated with BPD includes: transient dissociation; a feeling of chronic emptiness; intense anger; identity disturbance; impulsivity; self-harming behaviours; and, affective instability. While these overlap with both PTSD and Complex PTSD in the DSM-V, BPD is considered distinct from both based on two additional diagnostic criteria: terror of abandonment or rejection, and alternating idealization and devaluation of others. Further, while the etiology of both PTSD and CPTSD relates solely to trauma, the development of BPD is multi-factored in nature, often stemming from severe attachment insecurity and disorganization, and as a personality disorder extends beyond both PTSD and CPTSD. Reference: Ford, J. D. & Courtois, C. (2014). Complex PTSD, affect dysregulation, and borderline personality disorder. Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation , 1(9). Retrieved from

Boundaries - Boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify for themselves what are reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave around them and how they will respond when someone steps outside those limits.

Bullying - Bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons by one or more perpetrator. It is a pattern of abusive conduct that is threatening, humiliating, hurtful, undermining and intimidating. Bullies aim to control and subjugate their targets, and to increase their personal power at another’s expense.

Bullying can be present in social, workplace, educational, religious, political, sporting, and relationship settings. It can be overt and/or covert, and can involve verbal and psychological abuse, threats, withholding needed resources or information, sabotage, social exclusion or marginalization, reputational damage, and physical violence.  Reference:

Bupropion - a type of antidepressant medication. Common brand names for Bupropion include Wellbutrin or Zyban.


Catastrophizing - The habit of automatically assuming a "worst case scenario" and inappropriately characterizing minor or moderate problems or issues as catastrophic events.

Celexa -an SSRI antidepressant medication. SSRI's are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. Click Here for more info on SSRI's.

Chaos Manufacture - Unnecessarily creating or maintaining an environment of risk, destruction, confusion or mess.

Childhood Abuse and Neglect – Childhood abuse and neglect refers to emotional/sexual abuse/physical abuse perpetrated when a person is a child or teen. Underlying all forms of childhood abuse and neglect is emotional abuse and ultimately emotional abandonment of children. That is, children do not receive the love, support, guidance and safety they need from parents/caregivers during their developmental years and essentially are left emotionally to fend for themselves. When childhood abuse and neglect is repeated or ongoing it can lead to developmental arrests and CPTSD that carries into adulthood.

Circular Conversations - Arguments which go on almost endlessly, repeating the same patterns with no resolution.

Clean Up Rule - The Clean Up Rule says that everybody gets to clean up their own messes. It is a principal that encourages us to take responsibility for dealing with our own messes and leave other people to clean up theirs.

Codependency - A Codependency is a relationship in which an otherwise mentally-healthy person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected by an addiction or mental illness.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a structured form of therapy based on the belief that thoughts - not outside circumstances - control our feelings and behaviors and that our feelings and behaviors are consequently under our own control. CBT is helpful to those who have Complex PTSD in questioning old beliefs which were born of trauma. For example, the thought "People are dangerous" is questioned, "Are all people dangerous?" and then replaced with the healthier and more realistic belief, "Some people are dangerous."  In terms of behaviour this assists the person to move from the hyper-vigilance required to survive childhood trauma, to establishing and maintaining the healthy boundaries as all people must have in life.  

Cognitive Dissonance - A psychological term for the discomfort that most people feel when they encounter information which contradicts their existing set of beliefs or values.

Cognitive Healing – Cognitive healing is a term used by Pete Walker (2013, pp. 24-28) to describe recovery work in which the CPTSD sufferer uses various cognitive strategies to replace negative thoughts patterns with more positive, self-compassionate and realistic thinking.

Comorbidity - Comorbidity is a psychological term used to describe the occurrence of more than one diagnosis in a single patient. Comorbidity is common in the diagnosis of psychological disorders.

Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) – This therapeutic approach focuses on helping clients to develop their arrested/depressedsocial safetysystem by adopting a nurturing, positive and caring relationship with the self and counteract the blaming, condemning inner critic with a healthier, more compassionate inner voice. Much like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, CFT strives to stimulate different areas of the brain than are normally used by clients who exhibit shame-based, and highly self-critical thinking (as is the case in CPTSD). For additional information search Paul Gilbert and CFT.

Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) - Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a psychological injury that results from prolonged exposure to social or interpersonal trauma, disempowerment, captivity or entrapment, with lack or loss of a viable escape route for the victim. CPTSD is also referred to as “Complex Trauma,” “Disorder of Extreme Stress Not Otherwise Specified (DESNOS)” or “Developmental Trauma” in the case of children. (For more indepth information search Judith Herman, Bessel van der Kolk, Pete Walker, and/or Christine Courtois.)

Compulsive Lying - Compulsive Lying is a term used to describe lying frequently out of habit, without much regard for the consequences to others and without having an obvious motive to lie. A compulsive liar is someone who habitually lies.

Confirmation Bias - The tendency to pay more attention to things which reinforce your beliefs than to things which contradict them.

"Control-Me" Syndrome - This describes a tendency which some people have to foster relationships with people who have a controlling narcissistic, antisocial or "acting-out" nature.

Cortisol – Cortisol is a hormone that is secreted by the adrenal glands and converts protein into energy. When a person feels unsafe or threatened in some manner, the amygdala signals the endocrine system which releases cortisol and causes an increased heart rate and a rise in blood pressure arises in preparation for a defensive response such as fight or fright. In people with CPTSD, chronic stress can cause high levels of cortisol to be released.

Cymbalta -an SNRI antidepressant medication. Click Here for more info on SNRI's


DEAR - Describe, Express (what you want), Assert (the benefit) and Reinforce (the benefit). - The DEAR acronym was developed by pioneering BPD Researcher Dr. Marsha Linehan as an effective way to ask for something you want.

Denial - Denial is the practice of believing or imagining that some painful or traumatic circumstance, event or memory does not exist or did not happen.

Denial of Autonomy - Denial of autonomy is when a person is denied the right to make decisions for themselves.

Denial of Subjectivity - Denial of subjectivity describes a condition where a person is treated as if there is no need to show concern for their feelings.

Dependency - An inappropriate and chronic reliance by an adult individual on another individual for their health, subsistence, decision making or personal and emotional well-being.

Depersonalization – This is one of a number of symptoms of CPTSD and is a form of dissociation in which a person feels as though they are not real, that they are disconnected from themselves, and are somewhat distant or detached from what is happening to them. This maladaptive strategy is used to when CPTSD sufferers face overwhelming trauma they cannot escape from (as in childhood abuse).

Depression - People who suffer from personality disorders are often also diagnosed with symptoms of depression.

Derealization This is one of a number of symptoms of CPTSD and is a form of dissociation in which a person feels as though the world around them is not real, that they are in a dreamlike state and detached from their feelings . This maladaptive strategy is used when CPTSD sufferers face overwhelming trauma they cannot escape from (as in childhood abuse).

Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - The American Psychiatric Association's published criteria for mental disorders. The 5th Revision DSM-V was released in 2013.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) - DBT is a psychosocial treatment developed for patients with borderline personality disorder which combines intensive individual and group therapy.  DBT is a cognitive-behavioural treatment which is helpful for people who struggle with difficulties in managing their emotions. DBT normally involves weekly individual and group therapy sessions that focus on learning skills in managing attention (mindfulness skills), managing and coping with emotions (emotion regulation skills), dealing effectively with interpersonal relations, and tolerating emotional distress.

Disorder of Extreme Stress Not Otherwise Specified (DESNOS) – DESNOS is an earlier, alternative term used to describe the cluster of symptoms associated with CPTSD (included in the DSM-IV under Associated Features of PTSD).  ( See Luxenberg, T.,  Spinazzola, J. &  van der Kolk, B.  (2001). Complex Trauma and Disorders of Extreme Stress (DESNOS) Diagnosis, Part One: Assessment. )

Dissociation- Dissociation is a central feature of Complex PTSD in which one or more parts of the person’s psyche becomes fixated on avoiding and/or defending the self from the painful emotions of re-experiencing trauma (defense action systems), while other parts manage the tasks required of daily living (daily living action systems).  According to van der Hart and his colleagues (2005), there are three levels of dissociation (primary - PTSD; secondary - CPTSD; and,  tertiary - Dissociative Identity Disorder or DID) which span a continuum in terms of a person’s sense of continuity of self and relate to the degree to which trauma interrupts integration of the psyche’s daily life and defence action systems.  Reference:  van der Hart. O., Nijenhuis, E. & Steele, K.  (2005). Dissociation: An insufficiently recognized major feature of Complex PTSD. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 18(5). 

Dissociation: Left Brain, Right Brain – Left brain dissociation involves keeping constantly busy to distract oneself the “obsessive-compulsive flight” type of defense), while right brain dissociation involves the “freeze” type ofdefence in which the person distances or numbs themself (watching TV, daydreaming, sleeping a lot, using drugs, overeating).  Resource: Walker, P. (2013). CPTSD: From Surviving to Thriving. US: Azure Coyote Books, pp. 114-118.

Dopamine - dopamine acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. Increased levels of the neurotransmitters - serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine - has been found to reduce depression. This is the basis for most modern antidepressant medications.

Dysfunctional - Unhealthy, characterized by abuse or conflict, as in a dysfunctional family or dysfunctional relationship.

Dysfunctional Family Roles - In her work with alcoholic families in the 1980's, family therapist Sharon Wegscheider identified a number of dysfunctional roles that family members typically develop including; the chief enabler, a co-dependent spouse who tries to keep the family together; the family hero, a high-achiever who makes it look like everything is okay; the scapegoat who takes the blame for all the family's ills; the lost child who keeps a low profile; and, the family mascot, a jester who acts as comic relief for the family. For information on the difference between healthy and dysfunctional family roles, please see here.  Reference: Wegscheider, S. (1981). Another Chance: Hope and Health for the Alcoholic Family. Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books. pp. 85-88.

Dysthymia- Dysthymia is a psychological term for prolonged depression, generally lasting 2 or more years.


Earned Secure Attachment - Earned secure attachment refers to adults who suffered childhood trauma and did not learn how to develop secure attachments to others (e.g., spouse, children, friends). By reflecting on the past (e.g., in therapy) and constructing a clear narrative of the past - events, perpetrators, feelings – the trauma is integrated into the self thereby allowing the adult to develop “earned secure attachments” with others. For additional information search the work of Mary Main.

Effexor -an SNRI antidepressant medication. Click Here for more info on SNRI's.

EMDR - EMDR is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), a psychological technique sometimes used in the treatment of post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). EMDR is based on Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) which proposes that psychological distress is due to the maladaptive encoding of and/or incomplete processing of traumatic or disturbing adverse life experiences. This impairs the client’s ability to integrate these experiences in an adaptive manner. This treatment approach targets past experience, current triggers, and future potential challenges, and focuses on decreasing or eliminating distress from the disturbing memory. EMDR has been used in the treatment of PTSD to deal with a specific incidence of trauma, as opposed to the ongoing nature of trauma common to CPTSD.  It is recommended, therefore, that sufferers of CPTSD check that a therapist has training and experience with CPTSD before undergoing EMDR treatment.

Emotional Abuse - Any pattern of behavior directed at one individual by another which promotes in them a destructive sense of Fear, Obligation or Guilt (FOG) Emotional abuse of children which is ongoing can lead to developmental arrests (i.e., cognitive, emotional, psychological and/or social) and result in CPTSD. Emotional abuse can include: ignoring  the child’s physical/psychological needs; rejection/abandonment of the child in terms of emotional care and support; isolating the child from others; exploitation – making the child engage in inappropriate or illegal behaviors; verbal assault – shaming , belittling, ridiculing or verbally threatening the child; terrorizing – threatening or bullying the child;  and, neglect -  including neglect of the child’s emotional, physical, educational and/or medical needs. Emotional abuse may be thought of as an assault on the child’s psyche just as physical abuse is an assault on the child’s body (Reference: Besharov, D. (1990). Recognizing Child Abuse: A Guide for the Concerned. New York: The Free Press.)

Emotional Blackmail - A system of threats and punishments used in an attempt to control someone’s behaviors.

Emotional Flashbacks – Emotional flashbacks (EFs) are one of the most common symptoms of CPTSD and involve mild to intense feeling states (e.g., anger, shame, fear) that were felt in past trauma, and are layered over present day situations. For example, a person who grew up with a parent who was angry and abusive may react with sudden intense fear to a minor conflict at work and not understand what is happening or why because often people with CPTSD do not connect these feelings to past trauma.  Emotional flashbacks are contrasted by the visual flashbacks experienced withPTSD where sufferer sees the traumatic event replayed in their mind’s eye. For additional information please see Pete Walker’s article on (EF’s) here -

Emotional Intelligence - Emotional Intelligence is the ability to recognize and regulate one's own emotions and to demonstrate empathy and social skill in dealing with the emotions of others.

Enabler - A person who habitually attempts to placate another by sacrificing their own or other family members needs in a misguided attempt to keep the peace.  This is one of a number of dysfunctional family roles identified by family therapist Sharon Wegscheider in her work with alcoholic families in the 1980's. This role is typically adopted by the spouse of the addict who tried to keep everything and everyone together in the family. Reference: Wegscheider, S. (1981). Another Chance: Hope and Health for the Alcoholic Family. Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books. pp. 85-88.

Enabling - Enabling is a pattern of behavior, often adopted by abuse victims, which seeks to avoid confrontation and conflict by absorbing the abuse without challenging it or setting boundaries. The perpetrator of the abuse is thus "enabled" to continue their pattern of behavior.

Engulfment - An unhealthy and overwhelming level of attention and dependency on another person, which comes from imagining or believing one exists only within the context of that relationship.

Enmeshment - See Engulfment


False Accusations - Patterns of unwarranted or exaggerated criticism directed towards someone else.

Family of Choice (FOC) – The family a person choses to be with.

Family of Origin (FOO) – The family that a person was born or raised in.

Favoritism - Favoritism is the practice of systematically giving positive, preferential treatment to one child, subordinate or associate among a family or group of peers.

Fawn Response – As described by Walker, the Fawn response is one of four defensive reactions to ongoing trauma.   Those who fawn tend to put the needs and wants of others ahead of themselves at the cost of the health of their own egos, and the protection of and compassion for themselves. Reference: Walker, P. (n/d). The 4Fs: A Trauma Typology in Complex PTSD.

Fear, Obligation & Guilt - The acronym FOG, for Fear, Obligation and Guilt, was first coined by Susan Forward & Donna Frazier in Emotional Blackmail and describes feelings that a person often has when in a relationship with someone who suffers from a personality disorder. Our sister site, Out of the FOG, is named after this acronym.

Fear of Abandonment - An irrational belief that one is imminent danger of being personally rejected, discarded or replaced.

Feelings of Emptiness - An acute, chronic sense that daily life has little worth or significance, leading to an impulsive appetite for strong physical sensations and dramatic relationship experiences.

Fight Response – As described by Walker (n.d.), the Fight response is one of four defensive reactions to ongoing trauma.  Those with Complex PTSD who have a fight response tend to react when triggered with anger and contempt. Reference: Walker, P. (n/d). The 4Fs: A Trauma Typology in Complex PTSD.

FlashbacksEmotional and Visual - Emotional flashbacks (EFs) are one of the most common symptoms of CPTSD and involve mild to intense feeling states (e.g., anger, shame, fear) that were felt in past trauma, and are layered over present day situations. For example, a person who grew up with a parent who was angry and abusive may react with sudden intense fear to a minor conflict at work and not understand what is happening or why because often people with CPTSD do not connect these feelings to past trauma.  Emotional flashbacks are contrasted by the visual flashbacks experienced in PTSD where the sufferer sees the traumatic event replayed in their mind’s eye. 

Flight Response – As described by Walker (n.d.), the Flight response is one of four defensive reactions to ongoing trauma.  Those with Complex PTSD who engage in a flight response try to move away from and distract themselves from their feelings (e.g., through work, self-medication).  Reference: Walker, P. (n/d). The 4Fs: A Trauma Typology in Complex PTSD.

Freeze Response – As described by Walker (n.d.), the Freeze response is one of four defensive reactions to ongoing trauma.  Those with Complex PTSD who use a freeze response often Isolate themselves from others, and to dissociate or distance themselves from their pain and fear.  Reference: Walker, P. (n/d). The 4Fs: A Trauma Typology in Complex PTSD.


Gaslighting - The practice of brainwashing or convincing a mentally healthy individual that they are going insane or that their understanding of reality is mistaken or false. The term “Gaslighting” is based on the 1944 MGM movie “Gaslight”.

Golden Child or Hero - This is one of a number of dysfunctional family roles identified by family therapist Sharon Wegscheider in her work with alcoholic families in the 1980's. This member is typically a high-achiever who makes it look like everything is okay in the family. Reference: Wegscheider, S. (1981). Another Chance: Hope and Health for the Alcoholic Family. Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books. pp. 85-88.

Grooming - Grooming is the predatory act of maneuvering another individual into a position that makes them more isolated, dependent, likely to trust, and more vulnerable to abusive behavior.


Harassment - Any sustained or chronic pattern of unwelcome behavior by one individual towards another.

Highly Sensitive Person - The term “Highly Sensitive Person” was coined by Dr. Elaine Aron in the 1990’s and refers to people with Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS). SPS is a psychological trait in which people experience stimuli differently than the general population. While HSP tend to have a keen awareness of the subtleties of sensory stimuli (e.g., an appreciation for music, art, subtle smells and tastes, fine textures), they also experience strong stimuli as overwhelming (e.g., bright lights, loud noises, strong smells, a lot of motion/ activity).  When overwhelmed, HSP often need to withdraw to re-establish their equilibrium.  As a result, theytend to be mislabeled as introverts. Take the test at to see if you may be a HSP.  Reference: Aron, E. (n.d.). The Highly Sensitive Person. Retrieved from

Hoovers & Hoovering - A Hoover is a metaphor taken from the popular brand of vacuum cleaners, to describe how an abuse victim trying to assert their own rights by leaving or limiting contact in a dysfunctional relationship, gets “sucked back in” when the perpetrator temporarily exhibits improved or desirable behavior.

Hyperarousal – Hyperarousal is a main symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and refers to: having a difficult time falling or staying asleep; feeling more irritable or having outbursts of anger; having difficulty concentrating; feeling constantly on guard or like danger is lurking around every corner; being jumpy or easily startled.  Those with CPTSD may also suffer from this symptom of PTSD.

Hypervigilance - Hypervigilance refers to a tendency to constantly scan the environment for threats. Threats can vary from signs of being excluded socially to impending physical attack. Sufferers are hyperaware of their surroundings in a way that makes them feel tense, anxious, and constantly on guard. Hypervigilance in CPTSD survivors starts out as a coping strategy, a normal reaction to an abnormal, highly traumatic situation, but over the long term it becomes a maladaptive coping strategy. That is, as an adult the sufferer now has ways of escaping from or dealing real threats, but continues to act as though danger is ever-present.


ICD - International Classification of Diseases - World Health Organization (WHO) system for classifying physical and mental disorders of which ICD-10 is the most recent (1992).

Ideation - Ideation is a psychological term meaning thoughts and ideas. Most commonly used in the context of Suicidal Ideation.

Identity Disturbance - A psychological term used to describe a distorted or inconsistent self-view

Imposed Isolation - When abuse results in a person becoming isolated from their support network, including friends and family.

Impulsiveness - The tendency to act or speak based on current feelings rather than logical reasoning.

Inertness - An Assumption of Inertness describes when a person is treated as if they lack the capacity to act for themselves.

Infantilization - Treating a child as if they are much younger than their actual age.

Inner Critic – TBA – Shrinking, Defueling

Instrumentality - Instrumentality is when a person is treated like a tool for another person's own purposes.

Intermittent Reinforcement - Intermittent Reinforcement is when rules, rewards or personal boundaries are handed out or enforced inconsistently and occasionally. This usually encourages another person to keep pushing until they get what they want from you without changing their own behavior.

Internalized Parents - TBA

Intimidation - Any form of veiled, hidden, indirect or non-verbal threat.

Invalidation - The creation or promotion of an environment which encourages an individual to believe that their thoughts, beliefs, values or physical presence are inferior, flawed, problematic or worthless.

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) - Intimate Partner Violence is any kind of physicalemotional or verbal abuse perpetrated by one domestic partner on another.


JADE - Justify, Argue, Defend, Explain. To avoid circular conversations, don't Justify, Argue, Defend, or Explain.

Journaling - Journaling is a technique of writing down whatever thoughts and feelings come to mind on a topic without taking a break, stopping to think or slowing down to correct spelling & punctuation.



Lack of Conscience - Individuals who suffer from Personality Disorders are often preoccupied with their own agendas, sometimes to the exclusion of the needs and concerns of others. This is sometimes interpreted by others as a lack of moral conscience.

Lack of Object Constancy - An inability to remember that people or objects are consistent, trustworthy and reliable, especially when they are out of your immediate field of vision.

Learned Helplessness- Learned helplessness is when a person begins to believe that they have no control over a situation, even when they do.

Lexapro -an SSRI antidepressant medication. SSRI's are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. Click Here for more info on SSRI's

Lies, Liars, Lying – There are several distinct kinds of Lying including White Lying, Selfish Lying, Compulsive Lying, Dissociative Lying and Pathological Lying. Click Here for More Information about Lies, Liars & Lying.

Limited Contact – Curtailing most forms of non-essential correspondence, communication and personal contact with a disordered loved one or family member for one’s own protection.

Lightbulb Moment - A Lightbulb Moment is the description many non-personality-disordered individuals use when they first discover the existence of personality disorders. For the first time, they have discovered a plausible explanation for the strange and frightening behaviors of a loved-one or family member who suffers from a personality disorder and learn that their situation is not uncommon. It is as if a light were just turned on.

Lost Child - This is one of a number of dysfunctional family roles identified by family therapist Sharon Wegscheider in her work with alcoholic families in the 1980's. This member keeps a low profile and does not make many demands on the family. Reference: Wegscheider, S. (1981). Another Chance: Hope and Health for the Alcoholic Family. Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books. pp. 85-88.

Low Self-Esteem - A common name for a negatively-distorted self-view which is inconsistent with reality.


Magical Thinking - Looking for supernatural connections between external events and one’s own thoughts, words and actions.

Manipulation - The practice of steering an individual into a desired behavior for the purpose of achieving a hidden personal goal.

Mascot - This is one of a number of dysfunctional family roles identified by family therapist Sharon Wegscheider in her work with alcoholic families in the 1980's. This member serves as the family jester who acts as comic relief for the family. Reference: Wegscheider, S. (1981). Another Chance: Hope and Health for the Alcoholic Family. Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books. pp. 85-88.

Minimization -  See also “invalidation.” To downplay, belittle, trivialize or discount another person’s (or your own) feelings, thoughts or opinions.  "For example, someone using minimization when they have said something offensive may then say, "Don't be so sensitive, I was just joking" if/when the person reacts negatively.  Thus, minimization when used by another person is a form of deception and manipulative abuse in situations where denial is not possible.  The abuser uses minimization to downplay the negative effect their actions have caused and even to project blame onto their victims (e.g., "I hit you because you were behaving so badly, it was for your own good").  It can also be used by an abuser to downplay positive attributes in their victims (e.g., a child who receives an A is asked why they didn't get an A+).  Some people minimize their own feelings/thoughts. (“His abuse wasn’t so bad; she only did it because she was having a bad day; I shouldn’t be so upset.”)
Being caught in a CPTSD inducing situation, you may have learned to minimize your feelings yourself or be silent when others did so, because to speak up may have resulted in criticism, rejection or perhaps violence.  Part of recovery from CPTSD involves learning to recognize and protect ourselves when someone tries to use minimization, and to challenge ourselves when we do so.   References:;

Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI)- a psychological test commonly performed in custody evaluations to evaluate the psychological characteristics of the divorcing parents.

Mirroring - Imitating or copying another person's characteristics, behaviors or traits.

Mood Swings - Unpredictable, rapid, dramatic emotional cycles which cannot be readily explained by changes in external circumstances.

Munchausen's and Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome - A disorder in which an individual repeatedly fakes or exaggerates medical symptoms in order to manipulate the attentions of medical professionals or caregivers.


Name-Calling - Use of profane, derogatory or dehumanizing terminology to describe another individual or group.

Narcissist - A person who behaves with a pattern of selfishness, grandiosity, need for admiration, self-focus and a lack of empathy or consideration toward others. The name comes from the Greek Mythological Character Narcissus, who rejected love from others and fell in love with his own reflection in the water.

Neglect - A passive form of abuse in which the physical or emotional needs of a dependent are disregarded or ignored by the person responsible for them.

Neuroplasticity of the Brain - TBA

No Contact (NC) - Going "No Contact" means cutting off all forms of correspondence, communication and personal contact with a person who suffers from a personality disorder in order to protect yourself from recurring abuse.

Norepinephrine- norepinephrine acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. Increased levels of the neurotransmitters - serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine - has been found to reduce depression. This is the basis for most modern antidepressant medications.

Normalizing - Normalizing is a tactic used to desensitize an individual to abusive, coercive or inappropriate behaviors. In essence, normalizing is the manipulation of another human being to get them to agree to, or accept something that is in conflict with the law, social norms or their own basic code of behavior.

"Not My Fault" Syndrome - The practice of avoiding personal responsibility for one's own words and actions.

No-Win Scenarios - When you are manipulated into choosing between two bad options


Objectification - The practice of treating a person or a group of people like an object.

Out of the FOG (OOTF) - OOTF is the sister site to Out of the Storm and is dedicated to providing information and support for those with a family member or loved one who suffers from a personality disorder.

Out of the Storm (OOTS) - OOTS is a not-for-profit site authored and maintained by volunteers in recovery from Complex PTSD. It is dedicated to providing information to those who suffer from Complex PTSD, raising awareness of the disorder, joining in prevention efforts wherever possible, and calling for more and effective trauma informed treatment and services.  OOTS also serves as a platform where people can share their experiences of the traumatic events and their experiences during recovery with their peers.

Outer Critic - TBA


Parental Alienation Syndrome - When a separated parent convinces their child that the other parent is bad, evil or worthless.

Parentification - A form of role reversal, in which a child is inappropriately given the role of meeting the emotional or physical needs of the parent or of the family’s other children.

Passive-Aggressive Behavior - Expressing negative feelings in an unassertive, passive way.

Pathology – A Pathology is a psychological term for an abnormal or unhealthy mental condition.

Pathological – Pathological is a psychological term meaning "abnormal" or "unhealthy".

Pathological Lying - Persistent deception by an individual to serve their own interests and needs with little or no regard to the needs and concerns of others. A pathological liar is a person who habitually lies to serve their own needs.

Paxil -an SSRI antidepressant medication. SSRI's are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants.

Perfectionism - The maladaptive practice of holding oneself or others to an unrealistic, unattainable or unsustainable standard of organization, order, or accomplishment in one particular area of living, while sometimes neglecting common standards of organization, order or accomplishment in other areas of living.

Perfectionism Attacks – Walker (n.d.) writes that the Inner Critic spawns perfectionism attacks which fuels a downward spiral if not interrupted: The quest for perfection fails over and over, and as sustaining attachment remains elusive, imperfection becomes synonymous with shame and fear. Perceived imperfection triggers fear of abandonment, which triggers self-hate for imperfection, which expands abandonment into self-abandonment, which amps fear up even further, which in turn intensifies self-disgust...on and on it goes in a downward spiral of fear and shame encrusted abandonment. He recommends the use of thought-substitution, thought stopping, and angering and grieving to shrink the Inner Critic. Reference: Walker, P. (n.d.). Shrinking the Inner Critic in Complex PTSD

Personal Safety - Personal Safety is a list of actions that are designed to keep situations from escalating and to make sure that Physical, Emotional and Verbal abuse is avoided or stopped at the first moment it begins to happen. It contains ideas on when to stop the conversation, when to leave the room and when to call the police.

Physical Abuse - Any form of voluntary behavior by one individual which inflicts pain, disease or discomfort on another, or deprives them of necessary health, nutrition and comfort.

Placebo Effect - The Placebo Effect is when a medical patient is given a "placebo" or fake medicine - one in which there is no ingredient known to have any effect on their stated medical condition, but the patient, believing that the medicine is real, starts to feel better or reports an improvement in their symptoms.

Projection - The act of attributing one's own feelings or traits to another person and imagining or believing that the other person has those same feelings or traits.

Prozac - an SSRI antidepressant medication. SSRI's are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants.

Psychogenic Non-epileptic Seizures/Non Epileptic Attack Disorder (PNES/NEAD) - Seizures which present as epileptic but do not show similar changes in brain wave activity when recorded by an EEG.  These non-epileptic seizures are triggered by extreme emotion, thus they are psychological versus physiological in nature. See "Psychogenic Non-epileptic Seizures: A Guide" (2014) by Dr. L. Myers, and/or the "PNES" web site.

Psychological Evaluation - A Psychological Evaluation is a procedure, typically carried out as part of a court proceeding, in which a mental health professional is appointed by the court to determine a diagnosis or label for a person's psychology, behavior or personality and to make recommendations which a judge can take into account when making a ruling.

Push-Pull - A chronic pattern of sabotaging and re-establishing closeness in a relationship without appropriate cause or reason.

Put Children First - Put Children First means making decisions based on "what is in the best interests of the children", regardless of the consequences for the parents and any other parties involved.

PUVAS - Pay attention, Understand, Validate, Assert, Shift/Share responsibility - The PUVAS Acronym was created by Paul Mason and Randi Kreger in the book: "Stop Walking on Eggshells" as a method of responding to rages or outbursts.



Relational Therapy - The primary goal of this therapeutic approach is to empower the client with the skills necessary to recognize and create productive and healthy relationships. The therapist strives to address any and all past and present relationship traumas or impressions that have served to create discord in the present life circumstances of the client.

Reparenting – This term is used by Walker (2013) to describe process of serving as one’s own parents to heal from the attachment disorder which commonly develops in Complex PTSD as a result of growing up without safe, loving parents to bond with.  Walker suggests that self mothering is the “resolute refusal to indulge in self-hatred and self-abandonment” (p. 58)  (e.g., replacing the Inner Critic’s negativity and damaging talk with positive, calming, and nurturing talk), while self fathering “aims at building assertiveness and self-protection” (i.e., boundary setting, assertiveness training) (p. 62). Reference: Walker, P. (2013). CPTSD: From Surviving to Thriving.


Sabotage - The spontaneous disruption of calm or status quo in order to serve a personal interest, provoke a conflict or draw attention.

Scapegoat - This is one of a number of dysfunctional family roles identified by family therapist Sharon Wegscheider in her work with alcoholic families in the 1980's. This member takes the blame for all the family's ills. Reference: Wegscheider, S. (1981). Another Chance: Hope and Health for the Alcoholic Family. Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books. pp. 85-88.

Scapegoating - Singling out one child, employee or member of a group of peers for unmerited negative treatment or blame.

SCID-II - Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis II Personality Disorders - a standardized instrument for diagnoses of the 10 DSM-IV Axis II personality disorders, plus Depressive Personality Disorder, Passive-aggressive Personality Disorder, and "Personality Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified".

Selective Competence - Demonstrating different levels of intelligence, memory, resourcefulness, strength or competence depending on the situation or environment.

Selective Memory and Selective Amnesia - The use of memory, or a lack of memory, which is selective to the point of reinforcing a bias, belief or desired outcome.

Selective Mutism - TBA

Self-Aggrandizement - A pattern of pompous behavior, boasting, narcissism or competitiveness designed to create an appearance of superiority.

Self-Care – Self-Care is anything you do to reduce stress and take care of your physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual health and well-being. Those with CPTSD expend a lot of time and energy dealing with internal chaos and real/perceived external dangers. This is energy that they do not have to truly take care of themselves in a healthy, nurturing and life affirming fashion. One major aspect of recovery from CPTSD involves (re)learning how to care for the self (e.g., physically, emotionally, cognitively, spiritually, socially, financially).

Self-Harm - Any form of deliberate, premeditated injury, such as cutting, poisoning or overdosing, inflicted on oneself.

Self-Loathing - An extreme hatred of one's own self, actions or one's ethnic or demographic background.

Self-Regulation - Self-regulation is the ability to modify our thoughts, emotions, and impulses. Self-regulation skills let us become aware of our emotions and our responses to people and situations, and they let us change those as needed. They enable us to control our impulses long enough so we can consider the possible consequences of our actions or come up with alternative actions that would be more appropriate. One main symptom of CPTSD, however, is managing emotions, thoughts and impulses in unhealthy and even self-destructive ways (e.g., addiction can be seen as an individual’s maladaptive way of soothing chaotic emotions and thoughts).  Treatment and recovery involves (re)learning self-regulation skills such as: the appropriate expression of feelings; using healthy strategies to calm, soothe and nurture the self; and, undertaking Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to change one’s thinking). .

Self-Victimization - Casting oneself in the role of a victim.

Sense of Entitlement - An unrealistic, unmerited or inappropriate expectation of favorable living conditions and favorable treatment at the hands of others.

Serotonin - Serotonin acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. Increased levels of the neurotransmitters - serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine - has been found to reduce depression. This is the basis for most modern antidepressant medications.

Sexual Allegations in Divorce (SAID) - Sexual Allegations In Divorce (SAID) is a common occurrence in disputed child custody cases in which one parent makes false or exaggerated claims about sexual abuse of a minor child at the hands of the other parent.

Sexual Objectification - Viewing another individual in terms of their sexual usefulness or attractiveness rather than pursuing or engaging in a quality interpersonal relationship with them.

Shaming - The difference between blaming and shaming is that in blaming someone tells you that you did something bad, in shaming someone tells you that you are something bad.

Silent Treatment - Giving someone the silent treatment is much different than 'letting the matter drop' and moving on when conflict arises.  Rather, it is a passive-aggressive form of emotional abuse in which displeasure, disapproval and contempt is exhibited through nonverbal gestures (e.g., not looking the other person, leaving the room when the other person comes in) while maintaining verbal silence. The intent of the silent treatment is to get the other person to engage in contact from a position of weakness (e.g., "What have I done wrong?").  The desire for communication with the other person is used as leverage to gain something, typically something that violates a boundary of the other person, which generally is why it was not available in the first place.  Arrticle: Orwig, J. (2015). Why You Should Never Give Your Partner The Silent Treatment.

Situational Ethics - A philosophy which promotes the idea that, when dealing with a crisis, the end justifies the means and that a rigid interpretation of rules and laws can be set aside if a greater good or lesser evil is served by doing so.

Sleep Deprivation - The practice of routinely interrupting, impeding or restricting another person's sleep cycle.

Smear Campaign - A series of false accusations.

Social Anxiety Disorder (also known as Social Phobia) - Social Anxiety Disorder is a mental health condition where a person becomes anxious when faced with interacting in social situations.   The impact varies with the individual. For some, social anxiety is limited to a very specific kind of performance, such as giving a speech or playing a musical instrument for an audience. For others, the anxiety is much more generalized and can prevent them from eating in public restaurants or using public lavatories. It can interfere with sufferer’s working life and career choices, education and can impede building and maintaining friendships or romantic relationships.

Social Anxiety Disorder is not the same as shyness.   The severe effects of SAD can affect everyday functioning. People with generalized social phobia are not just a little nervous. Their lives are dictated by the need to either avoid certain situations or endure them with extreme anxiety.  According to Walker (2013), social anxiety is one of the main symptoms of Complex PTSD and is the result of being "a child who grows up with no reliable human source of love, support and protection" (p. 50).  Among other recovery strategies he encourages clients to engage in relational therapy to (re)ignite the ability to trust and bond with others. References:; Walker, P. (2013). CPTSD: From Surviving to Thriving

SSRI - Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants for people who suffer from personality disorders. Popular SSRI's include Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, & Zoloft.

Stalking - Any pervasive and unwelcome pattern of pursuing contact with another individual.

Stinkin' Thinkin' - The Ten Forms of Twisted Thinking - Stinkin' Thinkin', also known as 'Stinking Thinking or Ten Forms of Twisted Thinking', is a popular list of common negative thought patterns fromThe Feeling Good Handbook, by David D. Burns, M.D.

Stockholm Syndrome - Stockholm Syndrome is when a hostage, kidnap victim or abuse victim develops a sense of loyalty or co-operation towards their captor or abuser, disregarding the abuse or the danger and protecting or sustaining the perpetrator.

Structural Dissociation - Trauma related dissociation involves a structural dividedness of the organization of the personality into two or more parts that are essentially mediated by different action systems or constellations of action systems.  The Daily Life Action System deals with social engagement, attachment, sociability, care-giving, exploration, play, energy regulation (rest, eating, etc.), and sexuality / reproduction. The Defense Action System deals with: Mobilizing Actions including attachment cry, hypervigilance, flight, and fight which are mediated by the sympathetic nervous system; and, Immobilizing Actions such as freeing, fawning which are mediated by the dorsal vagal system (a branch of the parasympathetic nervous system).  For additional information search for Ellert Nijenhuis, Onno van der Hart, and Kathy Steele.

Stunted Emotional Growth - A difficulty, reluctance or inability to learn from mistakes, work on self-improvement or develop more effective coping strategies.

Suicidal Ideation - Suicidal thoughts.


Targeted Humor, Mocking and Sarcasm - Any sustained pattern of joking, sarcasm or mockery which is designed to reduce another individual’s reputation in their own eyes or in the eyes of others.

Testing - Repeatedly forcing another individual to demonstrate or prove their love or commitment to a relationship.

Thought Policing - Any process of trying to question, control, or unduly influence another person's thoughts or feelings.

Thought Stopping, Confrontation and Substitution - The process of intentionally interrupting negative thoughts and visualizations. It is not merely stopping the thought and retreating from it, rather it is stopping in the middle of an intrusive or disturbing thought, confronting it, and substituting or replacing it with an unbiased or positive orientation. The purpose of this is to defuel or shrink the Inner Critic which Walker (2013) describes as virulent in those with Complex PTSD. References: 1) Walker, P (2013). CPTSD: Surviving to Thriving, p. 178; 2)

Threats - Inappropriate, intentional warnings of destructive actions or consequences.

Time Out - A Time-Out is a decision to temporarily disengage from an argument, conversation, interpersonal situation or conflict.

Titration -  A method used in medical and mental health treatment to determine the most effective level of medication or therapy.  The dose/ treatment may be either slowly increased until improvement is noted, or decreased from a level that is obviously too much due to negative side effects.  For example, in working with clients who have Complex PTSD therapists who are trained in trauma informed treatment will slowly increase or titrate the client’s exposure to past trauma so as to not trigger overwhelming fear/shame/anxiety.  Reference: 

Top 100 Traits - The Top 100 Traits is a list of behaviors you might encounter when you are living in a relationship with a person who suffers from a personality disorder. Each section includes examples, descriptions of what it feels like and good and bad ideas for coping with difficult or challenging behaviors.

Toxic Shame - Refers to a belief that you are inferior and/or unlovable as a person. Shame is something everyone experiences from time to time when we make an error; toxic shame is the belief that you are the error.  Growing up in a CPTSD inducing household, we were not nurtured properly or protected enough. The adult in charge of us may have used shaming techniques to control or correct us. Through repetition, that shame finds a place to dwell within us, becoming toxic in its ability to skew our self image; we may develop negative coping skills (fight, flight, freeze, fawn) in an effort to escape the painful sense of shame at our core. In contrast, children raised in a healthy home are taught that it is their behaviour that is unacceptable, and not them thmselves.  Sources:  John Bradshaw, "Healing The Shame That Binds You";;

Trauma – An event or experience that is deeply disturbing on an emotional or psychological level. The trauma may involve a single incident (witnessing an accident), or be ongoing (child abuse).   Courtois (2914) suggests there are five basic types of trauma including: a) impersonal trauma - occurs randomly such as a natural disaster or accident; b) interpersonal trauma– deliberately perpetrated on an individual by another or others as in abuse, neglect, victimization, exploitation, etc.. Of particular import with respect to the development of Complex PTSD is attachment or relational trauma –ongoing abuse/neglect which is perpetrated in a significant relationship (parent-child; romantic/marital; friendship); c) identity trauma – Ongoing discrimination, devaluation and even violence based on the victim’s sense of self including gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and identity;  d) community trauma – also known as intergenerational or historical, trauma and involves ongoing discrimination, devaluation and even violence targeting certain groups (eg., ethnic, religious, political); and, e) complex trauma – ongoing and layered interpersonal traumatic experiences, generally starting in childhood. Reference: Courtois, C. (2014), It’s not you, it’s what happened to you: Complex trauma and treatment. USA: Telemachus Press.

Trauma Responses - Walker (n.d.) outlines four basic defenses that most people use in life, but which in CPTSD become fixated and maladaptive due to ongoing trauma.   These include the Fight, Flight, Freeze and Fawn and a number of hybrid types. When the Fight response is healthy an individual will have solid boundaries and the ability to be assertive when need be, whereas in CPTSD the person will become overly reactive and aggressive towards others.  With a healthy Flight response, the individual is able to recognize when a situation or person is dangerous and withdraw or disengage whereas those with CPTSD will tend to isolate themselves socially to avoid threat. A healthy use of the Freeze response ensures that a person who is in a situation where further action will exacerbate things, stops and reassesses.  And finally a Fawn response ensures that the individual listens and compromises with others, while someone with CPTSD will adopt a people pleasing approach to others. Reference: Walker, P. (n/d). The 4Fs: A Trauma Typology in Complex PTSD.

Triangulation - Gaining an advantage over perceived rivals by manipulating them into conflicts with each other.

Triggering -Small, insignificant or minor actions, statements or events that produce a dramatic or inappropriate response. 

Tunnel Vision - The habit or tendency to only see or focus on a single priority while neglecting or ignoring other important priorities.


Unconditional Love - This may described as: 1) love that is not subject to conditions or limitations; absolute, unqualified; and,  2) consistent love not based on the behaviors, thoughts, attitudes, or actions of another. For example, a healthy, loving parent would set boundaries for their children in terms of behaviour, but if/when they misbehave or make a mistake they would still feel loved at the core of their being.   (Source

Contrast this with the love in a CPTSD inducing family where children are oftenshamed and affection withdrawn. In these families, "love" is often conditional or even manipulative (e.g., You must earn my love by behaving in this fashion.") Indeed, this can be described as “pseudo-love”; that is, empty, without substance, the absence of authentic caring and respect.



Wellbutrin - a Bupropion type of antidepressant medication.