Signs of Complex PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD. A condition formally recognized to define exposure to a just but briefly distressing event — typically a near-death experience, an accident or a sexual assault. Complex PTSD individualizes vulnerability to something proportionately damaging over a more extended time period. Usually during adolescence and within the first 18 years of life. Bullying, kidnapping, ongoing sexual abuse, emotional neglect, manipulation into prostitution, and disrupted attachment.

As many as 1/4 of our population are drifting throughout the world as undiagnosed sufferers of Complex PTSD. Underneath, we know something isn’t right, but outside of depression, we lack a term to capture the problem. We cannot connect our condition to our feelings and have no clue whom to seek out or what treatment might help. So, here are eight leading indications of Complex PTSD. When reflecting on each symptom, take the time to cogitate on the ones which apply to us. If you resonate with more than five, this might be a warning sign worth listening to.

One — We can’t allow displaying much or any impulsiveness. We are fixed within our routines. Everything needs to be precise so to ward off emerging chaos. We may relentlessly clean to the point of OCD, and suddenly a simple change can feel indiscernible from the culminating downfall we dread.

Two — We have hellaciously propagated within ourselves an appalling self-image. We abominate ourselves, despise who we are, and relinquish positive thoughts. We assume we’re ugly, hideous, and undesirable. We assume we’re dreadful, execrable, and perhaps the most deplorable person in the world. Our sexuality is especially perturbed. We feel voracious, sickening, and shameful.

Three — We are susceptible to going off our rocker, blowing our stack, and losing our temper maladroitly. Occasionally with other people, family, or friends but more often with ourselves. We aren’t so much angry as incredibly, exceedingly worried. We fear everything is about to become alarmingly and egregiously awful again. We are barking and yelling because we’re frightened to death. We appear and sound callous, but we are, in fact, defenceless.

Four — We adjudicate a presupposition that nothing is, well, safe. Wherever we are, we have a worrying tendency that something terrible is about to occur. We are in a state of hypervigilance. The catastrophe often includes a sudden fall from grace, or we will be humiliated and hauled away from current circumstances — perhaps deprived of access to anything benevolent, kindhearted, or encouraging. People attempt to encourage us through logic that reality won’t be that life-threatening, but syllogistic reasoning doesn’t help. We’re in the grasp of an illness — we are not just a bit confused.

Five — We’re frequently attracted to exceedingly unavailable people. We say we despise needy people, but we genuinely loathe individuals who are too available for us. We make a beeline for disengaged people who won’t want warmth and might struggle with their own undiagnosed issues around polysemousness and avoidance. We find other people so precarious and problematic that being alone has enormous attractions. We’d rather live under a rock forever than congregate in groups. In some moods, we associate bliss with not having to see anyone ever again.

Six — To find safety, we may propel ourselves into work. Over time, accumulating money, recognition, admiration, and grandiosity. But, of course, this never works. The discrimination of self-disgust and danger comes from so deep within that we can never attain a sense of external safety. A million people can be cheering, but one jeer will be enough to evoke once again the self-disgust we have left unaddressed inside. Breaks from work can feel incredibly worrying. Retirement and holidays unequivocally create unique difficulties.

Seven — We are highly paranoid. We don’t anticipate other people assassinating or chasing us down the street. We merely suspect other people will be antagonistic and look for golden opportunities to subjugate, crush, and humiliate us. We can be mesmerically drawn to examples of this happening on social media. The unkindest and most arbitrary environment, which anyone with Complex PTSD easily confuses with the whole world, chiefly because it operates like their world — randomly and very meanly.

Eight — We don’t register within ourselves as suicidal, but the truth is, we find living so exhausting and often so unpleasant that we sometimes long not to have to exist anymore.

Those are the symptoms. So, what is the cure — for all these arduous symptoms of Complex PTSD? We must stoutheartedly appreciate that we have come through something terrible. Which, until now, we decorously haven’t digested because we haven’t had a compassionate, stable environment in which to thrive. We are a bit off-kilter because the circumstances were awful long ago. When we were small, someone made us feel extremely unsafe. They may well have been our parents, and we were made to believe that nothing about us was adequate, tolerable, or acceptable. To keep up appearances, we had to endure some exceedingly arduous separations. Perhaps repeated over the years, no one reassured us of our worth. We were only judged with intolerable harshness. The damage may have been undeniable, but typically, it might have unfurled in objectively innocent circumstances. A casual visitor or family friend may possibly never noticed. There may well have been a narrative, which lingers still, that we were part of a cheerful, happy family. One of the great discoveries of researchers in Complex PTSD is that emotional neglect within outwardly high-achieving families can be as damaging as active violence in obviously deprived ones.

If any of this rings bells, we should stop being brave. We ought to allow ourselves to feel compassion for who we are; it might not be easy, given how demanding we tend to be with ourselves. The next step is to identify a therapist or counsellor trained in handling Complex PTSD. Someone explicitly trained in dealing with trauma, which involves directing enormous amounts of compassion toward one’s younger self. In order to have the courage to face the trauma and recognize its impact on one’s life. Rather touchingly and simply, the root cause of Complex PTSD is an absence of love, and its cure follows the same path. We need to re-learn to love someone we very unfairly hate, beyond measure, ourselves.

If you’re in distress, need someone to speak to, or looking for a Complex PTSD therapist in your area, we can help. Contact the Vatic Foundation at, and we will lighten your path while assisting you in attaining support.

—Brian Nadon    

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