Signs of Adults with Complex PTSD – Ways it Impacts Individuals

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Signs of Adults with Complex PTSD vary widely as not all survivors experience all the symptoms listed here. Things that could affect your symptoms include your personality, the age of abuse, and other factors that protected you as a child including other people who supported you outside your family.

To briefly explain what it is complex post-traumatic stress disorder can develop because of trauma experienced as a child whether it is emotional, physical, spiritual or sexual abuse. It is ongoing trauma where you as a child believes that there is no way out for you. You then adopt behaviours, beliefs and values to help you to survive your difficulties.

18 Signs & Symptoms of Complex PTSD

1. Emotional Flashbacks

Emotional flashbacks are often unpredictable and overwhelming in nature. Similar to general flashbacks, they trigger an individual to flashback emotionally to feeling like an abused or abandoned child. You would end up feeling overpowered, afraid, rejected, lonely, rage, hateful, apathetic, and depressed.

2. Severe Inner Critic

The severe inner critic is when self-criticisms hound you to help you avoid rejection or making mistakes. You become almost obsessive about being nothing less than perfect and you have constant thoughts in your mind that drive you. This is the part of your mind that views you as flawed and worthless.

3. Severe Outer Critic

The Severe outer critic is the part of your mind that views everyone else as flawed and worthless. Where people appear to be too dangerous to trust. It uses the same strategies of perfectionism against other people that your inner critic often uses against yourself.

4. Toxic Shame

It’s normal and healthy to have some shame as it is a measure of what we do wrong and right. With healthy shame when we have made a mistake, we try and correct the mistake made and then learn from it. With toxic shame, we experience an intense feeling that we are a mistake and that there is something wrong with who we are.

5. Self-Abandonment

Can show itself when you have a hard time trusting, you tend to hide parts of yourself your feelings, beliefs, and ideas in order to fit in or please others. Or you may diminish or discount your feelings because you think they don’t really matter.

6. Social anxiety

Social anxiety is more than just shyness where you have a fear of situations in which you feel you may be judged negatively. You may also constantly worry about embarrassing or humiliating yourself and have an intense fear of interacting or talking with strangers.

7. Emotional Loneliness

Emotional loneliness starts with not having an emotional connection with other people. comes from not having enough emotional intimacy with other people. It can start in childhood, due to feeling emotionally unseen by self-preoccupied parents, or it can arise in adulthood when an emotional connection is lost. If it’s been a lifelong feeling, it points to the likelihood of not being sufficiently emotionally responded to as a child.

8. Low Self-esteem

Just generally not feeling great about yourself no matter what you do. There could also be some imposter syndrome in this as well.

9. Attachment disorder

Starting from childhood, you may find looking back that you have always had problems emotionally attaching to other people. This could include both friends and relationships.
You may find that you struggle with physical touch, have anger issues, control issues, lack of inhibition, and other struggles.

10. Developmental Arrests

Means being ‘stuck’ in an emotional level of development. Depending on the timing of when you experienced trauma (childhood, adolescence, or teen) determines the symptoms of Arrested Psychological Development.

11. Substance Misuse/Addiction

Where you use alcohol, drugs (illegal or legal), sex, food, and work to avoid or cope with your emotions. You may also use your addiction to try and alleviate difficult memories.

12. Relationship difficulties

You may struggle either finding relationships or constantly ending up with problem relationships. Or you may struggle connecting with your partner on an emotional level even if there are no issues with your relationship.

13. Mood disorder

Mood disorders can take different forms such as feeling sad all the time, Losing interest in important parts of life, and fluctuating between extreme happiness and extreme sadness.

They are clinically known as depression, Bipolar Disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and Self-Harm.

14. Dissociative disorders

Where you often feel disconnected from yourself and other people around you. Disconnecting from difficulties is a natures way to help us cope with too much stress but with dissociative disorders, this is more problematic and it affects your life and relationships.

Experiences of dissociation can last for a relatively short time (hours or days) or for much longer (weeks or months).

15. Overactive fight or flight response

May find that you respond to most situations with either anxiety or fear. Or if you have anger issues you may find that you have a fight response and tend to respond in anger.

With this situation again it would be affecting your life in many ways.

16. Hypervigilance

Makes it hard for survivors to relax or let their guard down. As they invariably anticipate threats they are on high alert and constantly monitor the environment for any signs of danger.

This is seen in an increased startle-response, where survivors may jump at any loud noise or stimuli, and are in a constant state of watchfulness.

17. Oversensitivity to stressful situations

Your nervous system would have been changed due to your complex trauma. The advantage is that you are more emotionally attuned to those around you. Unfortunately, this sensitivity to internal and external responses and being highly aware of negativities in your environment.

18. Suicidal Thoughts

Suicidal ideation is depressed thinking or even thinking about wanting to die. Your feelings can range from active suicidality to passive suicidality. It can range from active suicidality to passive suicidality.

Will it always be Like this?

The truth is no it doesn’t have to be but you need to accept some help. You didn’t get here by yourself. It was difficult relationships that brought you to this point but it would take nurturing relationships to support you.

It is a bit like a house with dampness. Sitting in your house wishing and hoping that the damp would remove itself won’t work. You need to find the root cause of your damp then fix it. This applies to you as well.

It will take time but the good news is that you can do it. 

You deserve to give yourself the goodness and love that you needed to receive as a child.


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