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What is Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder?
Judith Lewis Herman proposed this term as away of capturing the sequelae of ongoing trauma, such as childhood sexual or physical abuse, as opposed to PTSD resulting from single, stand-alone traumatic events.
We know that PTSD resulting from traumatic events tends to result in symptom patterns which include re-experiencing of the event (including nightmares and intrusive thoughts, for example), avoidance (including avoidance of stimuli associated with the event, and avoiding thinking about the event), and hyper-arousal (including an exaggerated startle reaction, insomnia, and heightened physiological responsiveness). We usually conceptualise trauma counseling as a short-term intervention, and we envision that the person will be able to return to their previous level of functioning and make a significant recovery.
Complex PTSD is different. Certain kinds of chronic, ongoing traumas leave their mark on the self and the personality structure, impacting the way the person processes information about the world and relationships in a lasting manner.
In this short clip, Prof. Gill Eagle outlines some of what has been observed in survivors of chronic trauma, and proposes treatment considerations related to Complex PTSD.
If you're interested in learning more about current trends in working with PTSD from expert speaker Prof. Gill Eagle, watch her full talk here.