Most of my clients experience noticeable relief when I explain Complex PTSD to them. The diagnosis resonates deeply with their intuitive understanding of their suffering. When they recognize that their sense of overwhelm initially arose as a normal instinctual response to their traumatic circumstances, they begin to shed the belief that they are crazy, hopelessly oversensitive, and/or incurably defective.
Pete Walker - "CPTSD: From Surviving to Thriving"
It is important to keep in mind that the symptoms of CPTSD develop as Walker points out, "a normal instinctual response" to ongoing exposure to trauma. CPTSD is a treatable stress disorder, rather than mental illness, weakness or defect of character. It is also not a personality disorder although it is often misdiagnosed as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) or Dissociative Identity DIsorder (DID).
Symptoms Shared by Complex PTSD and PTSD
According to Hyland et al (2017), CPTSD shares three main symptoms with PTSD which include:
- RE –Re-experiencing the trauma in the present (visual/emotional flashbacks; nightmares)
- AV – Avoidance of traumatic reminders (thoughts, people, places, things)
- SOT – Persistent sense of threat (hypervigilant, increased arousal, startle response