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What Are The 17 Symptoms Of Complex PTSD You Should Know After Prolonged Trauma?


Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) is a severe psychological condition that arises after exposure to prolonged, repetitive trauma. Understanding the extensive symptoms across emotional, cognitive, physical, and interpersonal domains provides deeper insight into this devastating disorder.

What Is Complex PTSD?

CPTSD stems from chronic trauma exposure over months or years versus a single traumatic event. Ongoing domestic violence, childhood abuse or neglect, captivity, and cultural upheaval all confer risk.


It distorts psychological development, altering self-concept and ability to regulate emotions and maintain relationships.

The Underlying Causes

CPTSD results from:

  • Childhood trauma – Emotional, physical, or sexual abuse; neglect.
  • Domestic violence – Repeated abuse by an intimate partner.  
  • Captivity – Such as in prisons of war, human trafficking.
  • Cultural disruption – Such as in refugees, genocide survivors.
  • Betrayal trauma – At the hands of trusted individuals like clergy.

Prolonged trauma overwhelms coping resources, rewiring neurological and hormonal stress systems. Dysregulated fear, attachment, and consciousness underpin the disorder.

Symptoms Unveiled

CPTSD manifests through 17 primary symptoms organized into four main areas:

1. Emotion Regulation Issues

– Emotional sensitivity – Hyperreactivity to emotional stimuli like anger or shame.

– Difficulty managing emotions – Poor control over emotional responses.  

– Unstable moods and outbursts.

– Feelings of emptiness or despair.

– Self-loathing thoughts and lack of self-worth.

2. Disturbances of Consciousness  

– Amnesia – Inability to recall important aspects of trauma.

– Dissociation – Detaching from reality as a protective mechanism. 

– Depersonalization – Feeling like an observer of yourself.

3. Negative Self-Concept

– Sense of defectiveness or being branded by trauma.

– Toxic guilt or shame about experiences. 

– Belief you’re completely different than others. 

4. Interpersonal Difficulties

– Difficulty feeling close to others and trusting.

– Avoiding interpersonal connections to prevent pain.

Frequent angry outbursts.

– Abandonment issues.

– Withdrawal and isolation from social networks.


Formal evaluation involves identifying trauma exposure through interviews, ruling out other causes like bipolar disorder, and assessing symptom domains. Screening tools like the ICD-11 help quantify CPTSD criteria.

Treatment Approaches

? Psychotherapy – Processing trauma safely and rebuilding attachment. EMDR, somatic therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

? Medications – Antidepressants for mood regulation. Anti-anxiety medication as needed.

? Support groups – Connecting with fellow survivors.

? Self-care practices – Managing emotional triggers and lifestyle balance.

With professional support and personal resilience, those with CPTSD can achieve post-traumatic growth and regain their quality of life.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Is CPTSD the same as PTSD?

No. While overlapping, CPTSD involves more pervasive emotional and interpersonal symptoms from chronic trauma.

2. Can children get CPTSD?

Yes, childhood trauma creates a substantial risk of developing CPTSD later in life. Early intervention is ideal.

3. Does CPTSD qualify as a disability?

Yes, CPTSD can severely impair social, occupational, and daily functioning to be considered a psychiatric disability.

4. Can males develop CPTSD?

Absolutely. While females have a higher prevalence, chronic trauma affects all genders. 

5. Is CPTSD curable?

While manageable with treatment, there is no definitive “cure”. But trauma therapy can profoundly improve well-being and functioning.


Recognizing the myriad symptoms and layered impacts of complex developmental trauma is essential for accurate diagnosis and specialized care approaches to rebuild emotional regulation, self-worth, and secure attachment.

With compassionate support, survivors can reclaim hope and stability.

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Dr. Harold Gojiberry is not just your ordinary General Practitioner; he is a compassionate healthcare provider with a deep commitment to patient well-being and a passion for literature. With extensive medical knowledge and experience, Dr. Gojiberry has made a significant impact in the field of healthcare, particularly in the area of liver diseases and viral hepatitis.

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