Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that seriously affect the lives of individuals in many different ways. PTSD can occur after someone experiences, sees, or learns about a traumatic event. Complex PTSD is a developmental trauma disorder (DTD) that can develop after prolonged exposure to social and/or interpersonal trauma. Complex PTSD occurs in the context of entrapment, captivity or dependence. This makes the victim feel helpless, without any control and can even change someone’s identity and sense of self. On this page I will explain the differences between Complex PTSD, PTSD and PTS in more details.
A person may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after being exposed to one or more traumatic events. Examples are: a traffic accident, sexual or physical abuse, warfare, and bullying. A person does not have to experience the traumatic event themselves in order to develop PTSD. Simply witnessing a car accident, a robbery or abuse can trigger PTSD. Not everyone develops PTSD. In many case two people can experience the same event, with only one of them developing PTSD. This can be very confusing and for some even shameful. But there is very little you can do to prevent yourself from getting PTSD. Experts now think it has something to do with the way people process a traumatic events. In other words: it doesn’t matter how strong and brave you are, in the end everybody can develop PTSD.
Someone with PTSD experiences symptoms, such as: nightmares and/or flashbacks of the event, avoidance or numbing of memories of the event, severe anxiety, hyper-arousal and sleeping problems.
Although almost everyone experiences one or more traumatic events in their lifetime, most people do not develop PTSD. In time most symptoms of PTSD can disappear. But for some the symptoms can get worse (affecting your ability to function) and can last for months or even years. In this case, the person suffering PTSD is in need of treatment. In case you are not sure whether or not you have PTSD, you can fill in the anonymous PTSD checklist and get instant results. I offer online PTSD, C-PTSD and PTS treatment.
A lot of people experienced a traumatic event (car accident, combat or kidnapping), but do not meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These people may have post-traumatic stress (PTS, sometimes called trauma). PTSD and PTS have similar symptoms and are easily confused. PTS symptoms are: feeling nervous or afraid, having shaky hands, increased heart rate, sweating, avoiding situations that remind you of the traumatic event, having a bad dream about the event and being distracted.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms:
* For a detailed list of PTSD symptoms, please read: PTSD symptoms.
It can happen that you have PTS and that some symptoms don’t disappear. In that case, it’s good to seek help and talk about your experience with a counselor. Often a few sessions are enough to move on, but in other cases you may need a few more sessions. It’s better to turn to a therapist than to ignore it, as suffering from these symptoms is simply not worth it.
Although complex PTSD is not an official disorder, it’s a widely known PTSD type and is used for those who have experienced social and/or interpersonal trauma (captivity or entrapment) for a long time. These situations can result in feelings of helplessness, loss of control, deformations of identity and sense of self. Examples in which people can develop complex PTSD are: sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, domestic violence or torture. Think of concentration camps, being held hostage, child sex abuse and so on. A long history of being bullied can also result in complex PTSD as well. In these examples, the person felt they could not escape the situation, and the victim has experienced more than one trauma.
In other words: you can get PTSD after one traumatic event like an accident, but you can’t get complex PTSD after one traumatic event. You can get complex PTSD after you’ve been in a traumatizing situation for a long time in which you had the feeling you could not escape. Such a situation can easily last months or years, and often these experiences change your personality. People with complex PTSD can have outbursts of anger, feel always sad, and have suicidal thoughts. Sometimes they can forget about the horrible event, or relive it. They often feel guilty, shameful, helpless and worthless. Those suffering complex PTSD can find it hard to trust others again, and issues with intimacy can arise. This can be accompanied by a developed preference for social and emotional isolation. Here are the differences between PTSD and complex PTSD.