Understanding Complex Trauma

Traumatic experiences by definition are frightening & overwhelming.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is often associated with single events such as a road traffic accident, a violent assault, being caught up in a war or disaster. After a traumatic event sufferers of PTSD often experience powerful negative emotions such as fear and sadness. They may experience flashbacks; intense memories of the event and they may avoid situations that remind them of the event long after the event has passed.

Complex PTSD (CPTSD) is another kind of post- traumatic stress disorder which occurs as a result of long term exposure to traumatic stress, often referred to as toxic stress, which typically arises as a result on repeated or ongoing traumatic events during childhood, rather than a single event. CPTSD is sometimes referred to as developmental trauma, or type 2 trauma. (type 1 trauma being trauma following a single event such as a road traffic accident).

If you were neglected or abused as a child, your primary orientation to the world is likely to be threat, fear and survival. It is only natural that a childhood experience with untrusty caregivers would cause mistrust and confusion. Living in fear and a lack of safety might compel you to continuously scan your environment for potential threats. As you struggle to make sense of the world, you may have relied on coping strategies to survive such as dissociation – a protective mechanism that disconnects you from the frightening, threatening experiences.

The primary emotional and cognitive symptoms of CPTSD are a combination of avoidance symptoms,  intrusive symptoms and depressive symptoms. Consider a combination of 3 types of emotions; environment – somatic (felt sense) and the mind. When you rely too heavily on trauma related feelings, it is common to ‘knee-jerk’ react as if you are being hurt in the present moment, when in reality you are safe and loved. As a result, you might make assumptions,  jump to conclusions without checking for evidence and without pausing for reflection, leading to inaccurate interpretations of events that may lead to a cycle of painful losses that could have been avoided. We refer to this in the training as the ‘hamster wheel’. We use the STAND approach (Stop, Think, Act, Never Doubt) to retrain our brain and combat the impulsive knee-jerk reactions, slowing the process down and taking time to reflect.

You may relate to behaviours such as avoidance, hypervigilance, self-criticism. emotional suffering, relationship difficulties,  low arousal and low self esteem. You may have developed unhelpful behaviours such as people-pleasing or issues with boundaries as a result of CPTSD.

High arousal symptoms are one side of the CPTSD coin. Low arousal symptoms, such as hopelessness, despair and depression reside on the other side. These symptoms typically result from living in a threatening environment with no means of escape. When you are unable to change your situation you may be left feeling ineffective, powerless, and helpless. Shame and worthlessness are signature depressive symptoms of CPTSD.

If you can relate, it is important to understand that it is not your fault and you have not failed. CPTSD is a result of learned beliefs and behaviours. Beliefs are just thoughts that we keep on thinking, we can relearn and replace negative beliefs and behaviours through our program;

Self discovery for Recovery – Emotional First Aid


Advocating for a Trauma Informed society, the Trauma Informed TRUST approach offers lived experience insight educating the Staff of Services, Organisations and Businesses to become Trauma Informed Members.

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Trauma Informed RAPPORT is a mind-body approach to regaining emotional control, healing the soul and becoming a whole person. Developed with lived experience insight and supporting adults to recognise, manage and heal from CPTSD.

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