Peer support subsequent to trauma contributes to full recovery

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) -- including complex trauma (cPTSD) -- is debilitating, breaking down the body through anxiety and stress, and it poses a significant suicide risk in sufferers. MyPTSD seeks to help and inform those who are directly or indirectly affected by these conditions through peer-to-peer support and educational resources.

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CPTSD Traits?

Discussion in 'Discussion' started by Grandpalw, Sep 7, 2010.

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  1. Grandpalw

    Grandpalw New Member

    I have read many many articles in regards to the behaviors, traits, feelings of those who suffer with CPTSD. All the articles may mention different behaviors exhibited by CPTSD sufferers. As I read each one I think, wow another trait that explains exactly some different behavior that my wife exhibited but I could not understand. But I have never found where anyone has tried to put together comprehensive list of these traits. I do understand that it could never be a truly comprehensive list as every individual reacts differently. But a few examples might be:

    Restricted range of affect
    Cognitive difficulties
    Memory issues
    Trust Issues
    Hates crowds
    Hides under blankets, even if 100 degrees in room
    Withdraws under stress
    Seeks high risk activities
    Cavalier attitude toward death
    Does not "get" humor
    Proud of ability to not show emotion
    Proud of self reliance
    Prefers to be alone when stressed
    Stresses out in normal situations
    Difficulties interpreting body language of others
    Does not believe self body language means anything either
    Feels need to please everyone
    Can't say no

    I could go on and on. But my question is, does anyone know if such a list exists anywhere. Each article I read includes more different traits that I see. Or would anyone like to add to this list to see if one could be compiled here?
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  3. LeoTheLion

    LeoTheLion Active Member

    That is a good one, is it possible to share where you find that ? I can see myself fit with some of those traits myself. Hope you mind share where you find it.
    BloomInWinter likes this.
  4. emmat

    emmat Active Member

    Not sure if you ment to leave it off or not but you've left 'Suffers Flashbacks/ Re-experiencing' off your list.
  5. Grandpalw

    Grandpalw New Member

    enmat' , I left it off because my wife has not yet come to terms with her CPTSD, so I am not certain she suffers from flashbacks or re-experiencing, which is why I didn't put it on my list. But the reason I asked the question was exactly what I hoped to start in this thread, a conversation of traits that others had so these traits or behaviors could be found in one place.

    LeoThe Lion, I didn't find the list, I created it from a myriad of articles I have read, and most importantly, from observations of my wife's behaviors, that seem to me to be related directly to her horrifically abusive childhood, and seem to tie into CPTSD. I was hoping many would comment and add to this list, or even remove from it, to better educate all of us,especially carers, so that we might gain a better understanding or compassion.

    Before I was aware of CPTSD, I would tend to anger when I saw her reacting to her stressors with these behaviors. Now if I understand the underlying cause, I can try to cognitively adjust my responses in a manner that improve rather than hinder our relationship. Now this doesn't mean I am always successful and often I fall back into my old learned ways and just get angry, and we probably all know what getting angry at someone with CPTSD accomplishes, nothing but driving them further into there shells.

    So I ask again, does anyone else, especially carers, see these traits or behaviors or any others in their loved ones?
    May1321 and snugglepuss like this.
  6. bluecat

    bluecat Well-Known Member

    Elizabeth G. Vermilyea in Growing Beyond Survival presents a very comprehensive list of traumatic stress symptoms. All of the typical c-PTSD or PTSD symptoms fall under one of the following general categories. She goes into more details in the book if you're interested:

    Psychological Arousal:
    -exaggerated startle reflex
    -poor concentration
    -sleep distrubances
    -irritability or anger outbursts
    -panic attacks

    Intrusive Recollections:
    -sudden onset of intense emotions
    -preoccupations with the trauma

    Numbing/Avoidance Stress Responses:

    Physical Stress Response:
    -nausea or other stomach problems
    -muscle tension, joint pain
    -chronic fatigue, fybromyalgia

    Additional Responses:
    -self-harming behaviour, self-mutilation
    -difficulties with sexuality
    -substance Abuse

    The following are an elaboration on dissociation:

    Dissociative Adaptation:
    -time loss
    -not remembering behaviour
    -unexplained posessions
    -fragmented memories of personal history
    -fluctuation in skills (this probably what you mean by cognitive deficit)

    Hypnotic Stress Response:
    -spontaneous trance
    -age regression
    -negative hallucinations
    -out-of-body experiences

    Process (Mental) Stress Responses
    -passive influence
    -referring to yourself as we
    -switching personalities/identities

    Affective (Emotional) Stress Responses
    -Depressed mood
    -rapid modd swings

    Somatic (Physical) Stress Response
    -pseudo or psychogenic seizures
    -conversion (physical pain instead of emotional pain)

    I would add that specific for C-PTSD are also problems related to childhood neglect and developmental delays. Difficulty navigating social situations and problems with attachment might be some examples. I don't have a literature reference for that though.

  7. LeoTheLion

    LeoTheLion Active Member

    WOW very information Bluecat! How did you come with that if there is no literature reference? Smile
    BloomInWinter likes this.
  8. TLight

    TLight I'm a VIP

    Wow.....the list above sure does sound like me...
    BloomInWinter likes this.
  9. James B.

    James B. I'm a VIP
    Premium Member

    Thanks for the informative post bluecat.
    BloomInWinter likes this.
  10. Grandpalw

    Grandpalw New Member

    Unique To CPTSD?

    Since this is a CPTSD Thread, I am hoping to discuss more about traits that are unique to CPTSD and differitiate it from PTSD. I realize many traits are common.
    What traits do you think are unique to CPTSD. Below is another list I came across.

    Symptoms of PTSD and C-PTSD
    Sudden or frequent nausea/dizziness/faintness
    Pain in the chest/heart
    Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
    Rapid breathing
    Rapid heart rate
    Inability to catch breath
    Difficulty making decisions
    Poor apatite
    Difficulty taking care of physical or emotional needs
    Vivid nightmares
    Muscle jerks, especially in limbs
    Difficulty starting or completing tasks and projects
    Fear that other's are talking about you
    Fear that other's don't like you
    Sudden feelings of sadness, anger, or fear with or without provocation
    Distressing feelings of loneliness
    Feeling that others cannot be trusted
    Episodes of disassociation - severe daydreaming or zoning out
    Feeling that there is no future, you have no future, your life/future will be prematurely cut off
    Sudden blankness of the mind
    Forgetfulness/memory loss
    Selective mutism
    Nervousness when left alone
    Periods of inability to feel close to other people
    Feeling that people will take advantage of you if you do not protect yourself
    Feelings of Guilt or Shame
    Feeling that you deserve to be punished
    Periods of restlessness - just wanting to move around or frequent fidgeting
    Memory loss surrounding the trauma
    Preoccupation with acceptance or approval
    Self harm/self punishing
    Anti-social or disconnected behavior
    No or limited interest in peers
    Periods of disconnection from reality
    Stutter or other speech impediment
    Lack of emotions - feeling neutral
    Difficulty relaxing - always being alert
  11. bluecat

    bluecat Well-Known Member

    I must have read it somewhere, but don't know where. Possibly Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman. Plus my personal experience, I am developmentally totally retarded, lol.
  12. James B.

    James B. I'm a VIP
    Premium Member

    Hello Grandpalw,

    If you ask a CPTSD sufferer how their CPTSD differs from PTSD, how would they know? The same if you ask a PTSD sufferer how their PTSD differs from CPTSD, they probably would know that, either. You might try various web searches to get a more specific answer to your question. CPTSD has been (generally) described as PTSD (often) with Borderline Personality issues. Good luck.
  13. emmat

    emmat Active Member

    There is a huge amount of cross over between the two - and until C-PTSD is properly defined and classified then it's going to be hard to develop a very comprehensive list.

    CPTSD has a more profound impact on the personality than PTSD, which can manifest in a variety of different ways. Some people can't repress their anger, I personally can't express mine at all. Some are totally anti-social, some have attachment issues that lead to heavy socializing. Some are massively agrophobic, some who suffered long periods of restraint are the inverse.
    The key is at some point in our development (those of us with CPTSD) we have been abused/traumatized so often we simply can't view the world the in the way other people do. We've tumbled through a macabre looking glass and even though we've returned home again the experience has changed us in a deep and often twisted way. Those changes though depend entirely on the type of abuse suffered. So, I guess if I had that would be my answer if you asked what kind of traits were differentiated CPTSD from PTSD. The massive effect CPTSD has on one's personality, the way you view the world and your place in it. Many of us can't even begin to fathom that we have any level of basic human rights at all (like those to food, water, safety from abuse, safety from the threat of death, medical aid etc..) because of our experiences.


    Also, with regards to your earlier plea for carers responses - you may have more luck posting something in the Carers section of the forum if you want to get carers replies. The PTSD bit is perdominantly populated by sufferers ;-)
    Kb3, Muse, BloomInWinter and 2 others like this.
  14. LeoTheLion

    LeoTheLion Active Member

    Bluecat to be honest you did a great job!... very helpful and information
    BloomInWinter likes this.
  15. bluecat

    bluecat Well-Known Member

    I like how you summed this up James!
    James B. likes this.
  16. bluecat

    bluecat Well-Known Member

    Hi Grandpalw,

    What you're listing is a mix of both, very specific symptoms that actually fall under the broader categories from E. Vermilyea and some of the same broader categories themselves. For ex. "jumpiness" would fall under hypervigilance, "difficulty starting or completing tasks or projects" would fall under dissociative adaptation, specifically fluctuation in skills etc.

    The problem with listing very specific symptoms (for ex.stutter or speach impediment) is that you start listing things that affect a fraction of people with the disorder and may even be unrelated to the trauma. While most people with c-PTSD or PTSD would probably recognize their struggles in the more broader categories, they might not fit the more specific descriptions.

    But, if you really want specifics, the Vermilyea book gives more specific examples under the broader categories, I just couldn't rewrite the whole thing. To me it seems like a pretty exhaustive description of stress-related c-PTSD symptoms and yes, they all can overlap with PTSD.

    The traits unique to c-PTSD that don't typically overlap with PTSD (and these are still just a speculation, since the disorder hasn't been formally defined), have to do with

    -impaired attachment and basic trust
    -impaired sense of self

    There are some c-PTSD articles on this site that describe what falls under these categories in more detail that I found very insightful, in that they really resonated with my experiences.

    In my opinion,

    -developmental delays

    might also be part of c-PTSD and might account for some of the overlap with various personality disorders, especially if the c-PTSD occurs as a result of childhood trauma.

    And finally, c-PTSD can result from chronic trauma endured in adulthood too, such as in political prisoners, sex-slaves, prisoners subjected to prolonged isolation, soldiers exposed to repeated traumatic experiences in Combat etc. and I would hypothesize that in those cases

    -erosion of previously met developmental milestones

    might occur and look similar to the attachment/basic trust issues and developmental delays seen in people who suffered from childhood abuse.

    On an aside, how about using 'symptoms of c-PTSD' instead of traits? Somehow 'trait' to me is suggestive of something fundamentally unchangable, a personality trait or a genetic disposition, while I hope this is an illness, not who I am, and I intend to get better one day ; )

    Good luck and thanks for caring enough to inquire!
    Abstract and BloomInWinter like this.
  17. bluecat

    bluecat Well-Known Member

    Just thought of one more symptom that I think is pretty typical of c-PTSD:

    -learned helplessnes

  18. Dylan

    Dylan Well-Known Member

    There's a comprehensive list of articles here on the forum (including symptoms and pathology) under Articles > Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). You might also check out the recommended DSM criteria (per Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman; Herman is the psychiatrist who came up with the concept/term/definition of CPTSD): (I hope I've managed to disable the link...I've gotten dinged in the past).

    I have CPTSD and don't display several of the symptoms listed in the original post (I do 'get' humor and am considered by most people as pretty funny, I don't hide under blankets and never have, I am extremely aware of (hypervigilant), and highly reactive to, non-verbal cues).

    HTH -
    greenleaf, kers, Junebug and 2 others like this.
  19. Dylan

    Dylan Well-Known Member

    After letting this topic percolate, I'm thinking I want to add a post script:

    While Herman's list is, in my purely anecdotal experience and opinion (!!), a fair representation, it's certain that our symptom cluster can be as individual as we are. So, while the general diagnostic criteria is still comprehensive, the expressions of those criteria can and usually are 'refined' into particular behaviors; "isolation and withdrawal" may be the criteria, but the method of expressing that isolation and withdrawal may be more individual (e.g. hiding under a blanket, hiding in a closet or hiding out in the house).

    I also think that many of us may be heavy on certain criteria and lighter on others. For instance, I've had a lifelong struggle with the 'alterations in systems of meaning' and my symptoms in that area have remained fairly high and unpredictable, however, the 'alterations in relation to others' (in the self protection area) is light in comparison.

    Experience with my symptoms has also shown me that they may change over time: I used to have severe issues/symptoms of 'alterations in perceptions of perpetrator', but these have morphed into, I believe, a more realistic viewpoint for the present day.

    That said, I think it's normal, particularly at the beginning of recovery, to want to know that - finally - we're no longer alone; we seek out the comfort, validation and reassurance of others who have the same or similar feelings, thoughts and behaviors. I think it's a good idea, though, to remember that our expression of criteria isn't necessarily the criteria itself; one might be misled into denial by thinking, "Oh, well, I don't hide in the closet, so I don't have it" (when they haven't been able to leave the house for a year!). :wink:

    I do wonder why Herman didn't include a category around affect regulation. I don't think I've ever met a CPTSDer for whom this wasn't a struggle. Supposedly DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) is also good for CPTSD folks; makes sense, I guess, since DBT was created to treat BPD and they both appear so similar at times...

    BloomInWinter and Abstract like this.
  20. girlwithwings

    girlwithwings New Member

    I wish I could post an intro, it won't let me?

    I am 31. I am just now coming to terms with how I have survived my whole life so messed up. I was always afraid to talk to anyone and how would I even begin to explain what it's meant for me?

    I have a startle reflex that my ex used to laugh at, it hurt me so bad because I can't help it. I have always used physical sensations to overwhelm my fractured mind. Starvation, pills, cigarettes. Pain in my body was a joke compared to my mind. I spent a lot of my time sobbing from age 13-20. I was deemed slow in school. I was pulled out of class in 4th grade by the school therapist. I told her hardly anything because I could not remember...looking back I see that other adults could see there was more to my strange behavior, even when I could not see it. I knew I lived in a small world inside my head that was lonely. And I just knew nobody would ever understand it. I still have a very hard time around people I do not know and feel that as soon as people see me they don't like me.

    I have been nauseous just about every day of my life and have severe migraines which started at age 9. I cannot ever seem to relax. I thought from the time I was so small that I was always going to die tomorrow. That is some of what CPTSD has done to my life and my soul.
    James B. likes this.
  21. James B.

    James B. I'm a VIP
    Premium Member

    Thanks for posting girlwithwings, I quoted parts of your post that are applicable to me. Especially this: " I knew I lived in a small world inside my head that was lonely." I believe many use the qualifier for the CPTSD Dx of "no pre-trauma memories". Makes sense to me, my experience as a CPTSD sufferer. Thanks again for the awesome post. James B.
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  22. Iam

    Iam I'm a VIP

    Awesome Bluecat! Very helpful!

    Thanks for posting this thread. It is helpful.

    I have been diagnosed "informally" with PTSD, however it is as a result of domestic violence, emotional and physical abuse by my family growing up and by my mother as an adult. So I have to wonder if it is C-PTSD. Add to that I was raped at knifepoint when I was 7 by a neighbor of my grandparents and was molested by several other strangers as a young child. So maybe I am a little different than the C-PTSD sufferer?

    I have or at times have every one of the things on your above list except:

    Sudden or frequent nausea/dizziness/faintness
    Feeling that there is no future, you have no future, your life/future will be prematurely cut off
    Selective mutism
    Nervousness when left alone
    Stutter or other speech impediment (Though I did have a severe eye twitch as a child and it still happens at times when stressed)

    I also have:

    emotional flashbacks
    visual flashbacks
    physical feeling flashbacks
    BloomInWinter likes this.
  23. LostInOz

    LostInOz New Member

    Ok so here is my list:

    Loner behavior
    Lack of trust
    Feeling of uniqueness, that I am uniquely in more pain, bad, so on than anyone else
    Self Injury/Starvation
    INTENSE fear of abandonment, real or imagined
    Clinging to perceived rescuers
    Sleep Disturbance
    Lack of emotional control
    Constant emotional pain
    LYING. All the time, to save myself from harm, perceived or imagined, or to ward off possible abandonment
    Inability to define myself
    Constant internal battles
    Anger. A lot of it.
    Lashing out, sometimes violently
    Feeling trapped
    Depression, debilitating depression
    Difficulty holding down jobs
    Attention seeking behavior
    Extreme discomfort in crowds
    Overdramatic behavior
    Extreme empathy for the pain of others (I take in their pain)
    Running...I move if I feel that the place I am in is not fixing me, or I am in danger, real or imagined
    Feeling of inability to care for or support myself
    Obssession with past experiences that I perceive as my fault, failures or frightening
    Self Sabotage
    Extreme difficulty in interpersonal relationships
    Alcoholism/Drug Addiction/Self Medication
    Preference for Cats over people
    Extreme impulse control issues

    I dunno, I am sure there are many more.
  24. Iam

    Iam I'm a VIP

    Hi LostinOz,

    I think your list emphasizes the individuality of c-PTSD symptoms. I can relate to almost every single on you have listed here and the others listed previously. Sometimes certain symptoms are non evident for awhile, but they seem to rear their heads when espeically triggered.

    Certain of my symptoms are the exact opposite of yours:
    Clingy - I remain detached from most people. I cannot stand it if anyone becomes clingy and wants to be around
    me all the time. It is a huge trigger for me as my mother put me in the position of being her rescuer.
    Anger- I do feel it occassionally, but usually it is turned inward and manifests as depression
    Lashing out - The same as above, I tend to beat myself up, not others. However, when provoked to anger it is intense and I lash out at the person far more than would be appropriate for the situation.
    Lack of emotional control - I am overly controlling of my emotions. I was completely numb except for sadness until
    I started therapy. Intense negative emotions terrify me so I tend to stuff them. On the
    occassions they do come out I dissociate.
    Substance abuse - Was a problem in highschool and I am fighting the desire to abuse again. Until recently all of my adult life I have hated the feeling o flose of control that getting high or drunk brings on.

    I think that even though some of mine are the exact opposites of your symptoms, it is still reflective and somewhat the same in the fact that both are at extreme ends of the scale. If that makes any sense.
    intrasearching and kers like this.
  25. LostInOz

    LostInOz New Member

    Iam -

    My clinginess is weird. It's that I hate you don't leave me type. I need them NEED them but can't let them get too close. I can't have real intimacy, a sense of real trust with anyone, but I NEEEEED someone to anchor me.

    My anger is usually turned inward, then outward in the form of self injurious behavior

    Lashing out...Again, we are similar here, but I have been known to be a hitter and a spitter when angry meets fear

    Lack of emotional control - I simply can't control my all. when I feel something it oozes out of me, like you wouldn't believe.

    Substance abuse - I conquered that with 12step reprogramming. But I still ache to get high or drunk at times to kill the pain.
    Philippa likes this.
  26. Iam

    Iam I'm a VIP

    Yep, totally understand the wanting to numb the pain with substances Oz. I think that with therapy I am starting to feel the pain more and hence the desire to use. Not worth it though. I got drunk a few weeks ago, ended up sobbing which made me dissociate and suicidal so I had my husband take me to the hospital. So not worth it!

    The lack of trust issue is huge in not letting people close. . I have very close friends that I do trust, but sometimes I think it is a pseudo intamcy.'s all so confusing.

    In fact I think I am more confused about myself than I have ever been. I don't know who I am or what I want (other than I want to stop experiencing the symptoms LOL). Sometimes I think I am fine and this is all some stupid act. It's like it isn't me who is symptomatic, it is someone else that I don't even know. Does that even make sense?
    BloomInWinter likes this.
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