If our self-perception suddenly changes drastically, we can become a completely different person. This is exactly what happens to patients with cPTSD. Why this disturbed self-perception can be dangerous, what it entails and what those affected and their relatives can do, that is what this is about.
Complex post-traumatic stress disorder – in a nutshell
Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (cPTSD) results from repeated or long-term trauma. These are mostly due to psychological, physical or sexual violence or neglect from early childhood. The complaints of people with cPTSD are manifold, because their traumatization affects their entire experience, thinking and feeling in relation to their environment.
This makes it difficult for those affected to control their emotions and impulses, especially with negative feelings such as anger, anger or sadness. Attention and awareness are also influenced by cPTSD and often those affected seem to be elsewhere with their thoughts. It changes attitudes towards life and social relationships.
In addition, those affected often suffer from physical complaints for which no anatomical basis can be found. Chronic pain, indigestion, exhaustion, dizziness and heart problems are particularly common. In addition, cPTSD often leads to impaired self-perception.
How do you recognize a disturbed self-perception?
People who suffer from complex post-traumatic stress disorder often feel helpless and unable to control their lives. They usually have low self-esteem and feel misunderstood by those around them. Affected people often isolate themselves and have difficulty opening up to others. In addition, there are often feelings of guilt and self-accusation, even in situations over which they obviously have no influence.
Further signs of disturbed self-perception are lack of drive and self-disgust, which can lead to self-harm and a lack of self-care. Your own needs are then ignored or not even noticed. These problems in self-perception can develop into disorders of consciousness, amnesias, dissociative episodes and even the splitting off of entire parts of the personality, i.e. a dissociative identity disorder.
What can patients do?
Anyone suffering from cPTSD should seek professional treatment. There are now a wide range of treatments available so that you are sure to find the right one. Even before and during the treatment, you can look for people in close family and friends with whom you can share your suffering and from whom you will receive special support. Even if this is exactly what people with cPTSD find difficult, this help is absolutely necessary!
How can relatives help?
Relatives such as family and friends play an important role in helping people with cPTSD and during their healing process. They are often the first to notice drastic changes in traumatized people and can then accompany them on their way to treatment.
It is important to be well informed, because if you know exactly what the symptoms of cPTSD can be, it will be easier for you in everyday life not to relate problems and reactions to yourself, but to see them in the context of the trauma . Even if it is not easy to accompany those affected through their illness, studies have shown how important a stable social environment is for the success of the therapy and the subsequent social reintegration.
Maercker: Complex PTSD. (2019).
Hecker und Maercker: Komplexe Posttraumatische Belastungsstörungen nach ICD-11. (2015)