Shirley Davis understands CPTSD! Most people have heard of post-traumatic stress disorder that afflicts many men and women returning from a war zone. It is characterized by flashbacks, unstable mood, and survivor’s remorse. However, many have never heard of a condition that often develops in childhood and changes the course of the child’s life forever, complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD).
For a good definition of CPTSD, we turned to Beauty After Bruises, an organization that offers outreach focused on adult survivors of childhood trauma who have complex PTSD with or without the presence of a dissociative disorder. Their definition of complex post-traumatic stress disorder as follows:
“Complex PTSD comes in response to chronic traumatization over the course of months or, more often, years. This can include emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuses, domestic violence, living in a war zone, being held captive, human trafficking, and other organized rings of abuse, and more. While there are exceptional circumstances where adults develop C-PTSD, it is most often seen in those whose trauma occurred in childhood. For those who are older, being at the complete control of another person (often unable to meet their most basic needs without them), coupled with no foreseeable end in sight, can break down the psyche, the survivor’s sense of self, and affect them on this deeper level. For those who go through this as children, because the brain is still developing and they’re just beginning to learn who they are as an individual, understand the world around them, and build their first relationships – severe trauma interrupts the entire course of their psychologic and neurologic development.”
CPTSD forms in response to repeated interpersonal violence that leaves the victim, a child or adult, feeling trapped with no hope of escape or of imminent death.
Complex post-traumatic stress disorder is a developmental trauma disorder (DTD) which is wildly different than post-traumatic stress disorder that normally, but not always, forms in adulthood.
The trauma model states that children who experience chronic sexual, psychological, physical abuse and neglect develop CPTSD. However, it also forms in kids who suffer slavery, human trafficking, working in sweatshops, war or survivors of concentration camp environments and cults. The trauma which causes this disorder may also include having experienced betrayal, defeat, and shame.
The reason children are vulnerable to forming CPTSD is that children do not have the cognitive or emotional skills to understand what is happening to them. Since the abuse and neglect, they are experiencing is normally perpetrated by people they know and trust, to admit to themselves that these same people want to hurt them is akin to emotional suicide so they use other means to manage the trauma.
The psychological implications are enormous leaving the child with a complex mess of their core beliefs about who they are what they are. This tangled mess becomes even more complicated by flashbacks, nightmares and other symptoms that are worse in adulthood.
Often, children experiencing interpersonal traumatic events experience a conundrum in their minds and some choose to dissociate the events away.
I have been involved with an organization that was founded in Hawaii known as the CPTSD Foundation. The foundation offers hope and help through free blog posts, interactions through YouTube lessons offered by its founder and President Athena Moberg.
The CPTSD Foundation also offers other services that are low-cost and open to anyone including:
Daily Calls. The CPTSD Foundation is proud to offer a revolutionary approach with live, interactive calls that include screen shares and downloadable formats. Daily calls are facilitated by certified coaches, licensed clinicians, counselors, and highly respected advocates in the field of trauma recovery. The foundation facilitates a safe and supportive group atmosphere where everyone’s voice is respected, heard, and appreciated.
The Healing Book Club. We have a book club where survivors can gather virtually and read interesting books to increase their knowledge of trauma recovery while interacting with others in a safe group with other survivors.
Support Groups. The CPTSD Foundation is honored to help support survivors of all types of trauma by offering secret and safe support groups on Facebook. Survivors can come and receive the support they need and deserve in a place where their voice is heard, their feelings are validated, and where encouragement is always in abundance.
It has been my privilege to write blog posts for the CPTSD Foundation for two years running and encourage any survivor to check out our services and our site.
Our only goal is to bring hope to survivors and to encourage them to move forward in their healing whether they are in therapy or not.
Shirley Davis Says, “Let’s Define CPTSD” was authored by Shirley Davis. Shirley is an advocate, speaker and author focusing on the disorder she understands best, her own, dissociative identity disorder (DID). Shirley lives in rural Illinois with her brother, his wife and their two young sons. She enjoys writing and spending time with her four-year old nephew Michael. Shirley can be found on Twitter at the address @ShirleyDavis18 and on LinkedIn under her full name. Shirley Davis also owns and operates a website dedicated to spreading awareness about dissociative identity disorder that is found at https://www.morgan6062.com.
For more article celebrating Charity’s Champions read Cynthia Kersey – Unstoppable Foundation Says, “Believe”
Please help me…. adult survivor of narcissist but didn’t know until after divorced sociopath. No one will even order an MRI and mother has taken my child. Somebody please diagnose me and help. I am fighting, but am running out of ability to do so. I am fighting the monster behind a mask ALONE- And it was my own mother!
[…] and physically. I had been living with undiagnosed and untreated Complex Post Traumatic Stress, or CPTSD (otherwise known as developmental trauma and Non-Combat PTSD) since childhood. That diagnosis […]
A Psychological Awakening
Patrick White· Thursday, May 28, 2020·
I only learned the term C-PTSD about a month ago. I began writing my autobiography three years ago. now I am awakening to why.
An excerpt from my book – Chapter one.
A Psychological Awakening.
The golden summer sunshine gilds the trees with that morning glow, warming the soul. Now at sixty four years old Ricardo’s life is good. As his two year old step grandson plays with toys on the floor and thinks of new ways to draw “Oupa’s attention” into the imaginary playful world of his creation. He toddles over to the TV cabinet, with that beautiful, naughty smile of challenge that fills his aura with mischief – he springs the taboo plastic lock opening the door to a world of colored blinking lights. The excitement cannot be contained as he fervently looks back at his Oupa with that toddler smile that could melt any heart…. and with his own aching heart his Oupa smiles back …
The dark veil of time draws aside slowly and snaps his memories back to when he was two years old… a Déjà vu moment, slowly a tear rolls down his cheek as the years fall away… How could they…the whispered thought drifts across his mind…
Sixty two years ago a two year old Ricardo toddled his way into the lounge of the house on number 4 Avon Place, Cowes Hill a suburb overlooking the small town of Pinetown, it seemed that the lounge was empty. The same golden beams of sunrise cast rays of light through the curtains that moved as slowly as the sun moved. In the golden shaft of sunlight the dust particles rose and swirled in a fascinating dance with wafts of air, almost alive. Ricardo poked his finger in one of the shafts of golden sunlight and chuckles with delight as the dust scurries away in the air. As he moved into the room a crackling scratching sound came from the Taboo box that stood to the side of the couch. two year old Curious, little Ricardo went to investigate that noise and as he drew closer another scratchy noise came from within Ricardo now driven by extreme undeniable curiosity opened the flap door on the front to peek deep inside and there within he saw the magical glowing face of a gramophone radio. There was a strange lamp in the middle that seemed almost alive. Hypnotized, he stared long and hard at it until he felt that somebody was watching him.
He closed the door gently and moved away because he remembered that man who had moved in with them had told his Mother that “the kids must not touch the Gramophone Radio”.
Later that evening that man came home from work. A short time later and behind closed door there was an angry discussion in the bedroom… raised voices after which the man exploded from the bedroom yelling Ricardo’s name. The man had dark rings around his eyes, the look of rage on his face. He was choking on his own words and yelped indignant curses as he tore his belt from his neatly ironed and pleated trousers, The Brill cream black hair was perfectly combed in place but now fell across his brow enhancing his fearsome look… fumbling and groping barely able to control his movements such was his anger at little Ricardo who by now was terrified, round eyed and rooted to the spot unable to flee.
The monster grasped both Ricardo’s wrists in a massive hand and with the other hand tore at the boys pants forcefully ripping them down off his shaking body, embarrassingly exposing Ricardo’s naked buttocks to this strangers rage. Petrified with fear he was then dragged over the man’s lap both his wrists clenched in the massive hand as the roaring stranger began flailing him with the belt.
All the while his Mother sat composed with a haughty justified sneer on her face, approving of the first of a multitude of betrayals that would punctuate the days and years to come.
In the following days and similar events and as nature will have it, little Ricardo gave in to terror, lost control of his bladder and wet the monster’s lap, the perfect pressed trousers darkened as the smell of urine filled the room which in retrospect was well justified. A roar of frustration as the monster was now incandescent with rage flung the boy aside to avoid further golden showers.
In the years that followed and from then on the abuse transformed to a macabre marionette dance, little two year old Ricardo suspended painfully by his wrists, grasped in a clenched fist of the gagging monster sometimes off ground whilst his abuser was wielding various instruments of punishment.
Scapegoats, in a dysfunctional family seldom see reality. As Ricardo grows so does the guilt that this was all his fault, the deep seated horror at the monster that time and time again beat him and who yet to this day incredibly believes that he is without guilt when in fact his actions brought about a cascade of events that would mark him as a monster forever.
From the first outburst of rage that stranger inflicted the worst harm any child should endure, Child abuse related complex post traumatic stress disorder or C-PTSD. Following the ongoing onslaught of a pair of mentally imbalanced parents brings about the fight or flight state of mind in young Ricardo and his defenses become his reality, to respond to torment with full defenses, over reaction in an adrenaline filled explosive response begins to take all his peers by surprise, when facing injustice or torment there is an explosion and a verbal uncontrollable tirade and he becomes a rebel who accepts none but his own truth. Naturally this form of defense plays directly into the needs of his bullies and peers who seek a victim.
Thank you for this!! You don’t know how much this information helped me today ❤❤
I am interested in the legal rights for CPTSD
Thank you Shirley. I appreciate the education. I thought that CPTSD was the result of multiple traumas suffered through adulthood also but your description helps me understand why i can’t get out of my childhood especially while raising a son who is now a teenager. sadly, he keeps my trauma alive. My trauma is also associated with violent facial spasms. The spasms are attributed to the vagus nerve. I know I spelled that wrong. Peace, Maureen
i would like to learn more about this
I need appropriate treatment for complex ptsd I lack health insurance or the knowledge of how to find appropriate treatment.
Please help me identify avenues of support. Perhaps group therapy would Help make me feel less isolated and lonely, help me understand the condition better through other people’s experiences. I seem to have a hard time talking about my traumas. I can’t seem to talk about them without plummeting into terrible depression. I take mood stabilizers and benzodiazepines to help with symptoms though these treatments do not seem to be adequate. I talk to a counselor but she isn’t trained in cptsd and I can’t seem to talk to her without completing losing a day or several days to depressive symptoms when I talk about my past.
Feels like there’s no hope for recovery.
Please help direct me in the right direction for recovery.
[…] address domestic abuse, also need more training in trauma and its connection to substance abuse, PTSD, CPTSD and trauma-coerced attachment, as well as intersectional vulnerabilities that combine to increase a […]
Might I add one point to this article? 65 years ago while I was going through this torture I did not know my parents and their actions were not normal. I did not know I was being abused. Without thinking I assumed every parent was like this and that I was a bad kid. I did not speak out because I did not want others to know how bad I was. I was terrified that I would be exposed and was actually grateful to my parents for keeping this a secret.
at 70 I still fight the terror daily. It rules my life and does not get any better, at least to this point.
I need you. Have CPTSD bad…
Gigi I am in the same situation. I tried IFS therapy, but was only able to access my trauma intelectually, not emotionally. I am afraid to do it emotionally as I can easily lose an entire day or a few paralyzed by depression and anxiety which i cannot afford due to working full-time. IFS was also pricy and not covered by my insurance… Hang in there Gigi, you are not alone! If you need to check-in with someone once in a while my email is [email protected] Irina is my name
Thank you for sharing all this valuable information. I am so appreciative!! Anne Canfield
I was diagnosed with CPTSD several years ago. I have been in medical hospitals since I was two weeks old. My father was extremely abusive, not just to me, but my younger brother and two sisters. I grew up with high blood pressure, broken bones, skull fractures. I’m now 67 years old and have no desire for any type of human contact, but I do love animals. I tell people that I am not human “friendly” for many validated reasons as I grew up. I have no desire to change my sexual feelings which include women but not in any way shape or form due to my father and step mother. But I digress, my issues are that I had been diagnosed with MS, COPD, and CHF, none of which I care or concern myself with because that is the way I have grown up. My last therapist was a waste of time because don’t care for tele-med. I also need to let you know that have not caught Covid-19, I’ve never had any type of flu virus my entire life and probably 4 or 5 mild colds. To explain that CPTSD causes physiological changes in one’s body over time is very true, I’m currently seeking a new neurologist because I am very tired of dealing NP’s and LPN’s who can’t understand how I feel. I have not seen my neurologist face to face in about two years and had one tele-med visit 6 months ago. Normally, I do not share this much information but your article has fascinated me because it validates what I have felt for a long time. Sorry for the rant but you are the first person who said in writing what I have been feeling for along time.
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Thank you, Ms. Davis. It’s a debilitating situation that I’ve never seen described as accurately as you have. I’d like to take advantage of your group’s programs to get where I need to go. Thank you, again.
I need help, I am a 34 year old adult, I have CPTSD, I endured extensive trauma as a child and as an adult for extended periods of time. I am a single mother of 3, I am getting worse, I am not coping well, I only want to interact with my children and boyfriend. I have been crying alot and all I want to do when I get off of work is sleep. I am being treated with medicine for depression and anxiety but I feel myself sinking.
I need this. Badly. My life growing up was so abusive by my mother I was drawn to serial killers.
Please have someone contact me about services.
I was abused physically and psychologically at home and bullied at school throughout my entire childhood. Whenever I reached out, it was treated like the child is most likely at fault (this was in the 1960s). Despite my CPTSD, severe depression and anxiety, I managed to do some significant things for my musical talent which came at age two; for the forests by raising the bar on care; and for the mental health community by integrating patients and survivors onto the board of mental health. Still, I’ve always sought special understanding that was just not there. I’m able to write this calmly without depression and anger because of the meds I’m on. But I hope for expert therapy combined with psychedelic therapy as LSD (taken non-clinically but responsibly in 1974 at age 16) helped me greatly. Currently, they’re working on introducing psilocybin and MDMA for CPTSD while reserving LSD for terminal cancer patients. But with the great weight of the kinds of abuse I suffered, the LSD would be appropriate along with the best of encouraging talk therapy on the planet. This is a dire SOS.
I have been diagnosed with Ptsd (because as many of you know: the DSM-IV Does not yet recognize the “Complex” part to the PTAD. So, along with Chronic Depression, Chronic Anxiety, AND Chronic Insomnia…I have a truly AMAZING Therapist who is an actual Dr. – She has suggested that a Support Group – locally (for my situation,) for trauma, would work best! I see that you offer FB support groups, I am VERY, VERY uncomfortable “doing,” an online support group, Do you (or do you know of one/some) support groups focused on long term trauma, and/or actual CPTSD that I could look into??? I would greatly appreciate any feedback! Thanks much, and Happy New Year!
You might want to check out CPTSDfoundation.org they offer a lot of support groups.