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Complex PTSD vs. PTSD

Jun 15, 2023

A traumatic experience can have a direct effect on your ability to remain in recovery. At the same time, even someone living with trauma for years may understand the role it plays in their ability to stay sober and function daily. In this blog post, we’ll cover two types of trauma, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), and explain how each is treated. 


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) are two mental health illnesses that can develop after experiencing traumatic experiences. While the two conditions have some similarities, they also have significant differences. PTSD is often caused by a single traumatic experience, such as a natural catastrophe, automobile accident, physical attack, or military battle. C-PTSD frequently results from recurrent exposure to traumatic situations, especially in interpersonal interactions, such as chronic childhood abuse, domestic violence, or extended confinement. Both are treatable, and it’s recommended to seek dual diagnosis treatment when PTSD or C-PTSD contributes to a substance use disorder. Origins Recovery Center can help you overcome the mental health barrier to sobriety in a program designed for men of all ages.

What Is PTSD?

Exposure to a traumatic incident can result in PTSD: the individual experienced, observed or was faced with an event involving real or threatened death, significant injury, or sexual violence. When exposed to reminders of the traumatic experience, it manifests as re-experiencing symptoms such as intrusive thoughts or recollections, flashbacks, nightmares, or extreme psychological or bodily discomfort. A person suffering from PTSD may attempt to avoid triggers connected with the traumatic incident, such as avoiding specific places, activities, or conversations. They may experience guilt, humiliation, alienation, loss of interest, trouble experiencing good emotions, and incorrect views about themselves or the world regularly. Irritability, difficulty sleeping, hypervigilance, heightened startle reaction, and difficulties focusing are all symptoms of PTSD.

How Is PTSD Treated?

PTSD treatment is frequently tailored to the individual’s specific needs and may include a variety of techniques. One strategy is talk therapy, which may involve Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT focuses on recognizing and challenging negative attitudes and beliefs about the traumatic incident and developing coping techniques to deal with painful symptoms. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is another method. To aid the reprocessing of traumatic memories and decrease accompanying suffering, EMDR combines aspects of exposure treatment with bilateral stimulation (such as eye movements or taps). Individual, group, and family therapy are other typical alternatives for those who have PTSD.

How Does C-PTSD Differ from PTSD?

Let’s look at Complex PTSD vs. PTSD. C-PTSD is a more complex and severe form of PTSD, typically following prolonged and repeated trauma. C-PTSD diagnostic criteria contain all PTSD criteria as well as additional symptoms. They may have difficulties managing or regulating emotions, having powerful and unstable emotions, having emotional outbursts, and feeling emotional numbness or emptiness. Individuals suffering from C-PTSD frequently have a skewed self-image, feelings of shame or guilt, a persistent sense of worthlessness, and difficulties forming a meaningful sense of self. C-PTSD is linked to difficulties in creating and sustaining healthy relationships, such as issues with trust, intimacy, and keeping boundaries. C-PTSD patients may experience meaninglessness, existential problems, and a constant sense of pessimism.

How Is C-PTSD Treated?

Treatment of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is typically a long-term process that involves a combination of therapeutic approaches. Common evidence-based treatments used to treat C-PTSD include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). CBT can aid in the processing of traumatic events, the challenging of inaccurate beliefs, and the development of appropriate coping skills. DBT can also assist those with C-PTSD who suffer from emotional dysregulation and self-destructive behaviors. It emphasizes developing skills for emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness abilities. In addition, by processing traumatic memories and related beliefs, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) can be beneficial in treating C-PTSD. It involves bilateral stimulation to aid in the reprocessing of traumatic events and the promotion of recovery. 

In addition, medications may be prescribed to treat specific symptoms of C-PTSD, self-care strategies may be introduced to help you improve overall well-being, and group therapy and support groups can provide:

  • Validation.
  • A sense of community.
  • Opportunities to share experiences with others who have faced similar challenges.

You might also try yoga, mindfulness, or creative arts therapy to help you remain focused on healing.

How Do You Find Help for PTSD or C-PTSD?

The next step after understanding C-PTSD vs. PTSD, the next step is finding the proper help. If you or someone you know is suffering from PTSD or C-PTSD, it is best to get therapy from a mental health professional who specializes in trauma treatment. Dual diagnosis treatment is recommended if the trauma co-exists with a substance use disorder. Origins Recovery Center provides a medically-supervised detox, an accurate diagnosis, a holistic treatment plan, and the necessary support to help in recovery and symptom management for men with a history of substance abuse or addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. 

Origins Recovery Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 866-875-1558.

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