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Understanding Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (c-PTSD)

Christopher Fischer, M.D, Board-certified Psychiatrist

Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (c-PTSD) is similar to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, however instead of there being one traumatic exposure (such as a natural disaster), there was repeated long-term exposure to traumas. Often, we hear of c-PTSD in the context of childhood exposure to trauma, such as history of abuse or neglect but c-PTSD can also develop during adulthood or remain untreated from childhood. People with c-PTSD can experience typical symptoms of trauma such as avoidance, hypervigilance and hyperarousal. They may also have difficulties with controlling emotions, have a negative self-concept, and have difficulties with interpersonal relationships. Trauma can have significant negative effects on the brain including the prefrontal cortex (planning center of the brain), the amygdala (fear center of the brain), and the hippocampus (memory center of the brain). Untreated trauma-related symptoms can also have devastating impacts on relationships, work functioning, and ability to enjoy life. It is important to find healing from past traumas from mental health professionals that understand this disorder and help guide you to a place of personal growth.

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