Complex PTSD Treatment and Can You Fully Recover

Keywords: Complex PTSD Treatment.

Most clients I see will bring up this question at some point. Furthermore, it is frequently asked on social media pages. It would be easy to give a conclusive "yes" or "no" answer and back it up with valid reasoning and personal experience, but doing so would prevent us from looking at what’s driving that question.

Complex PTSD Treatment and Will I Ever be Free From Trauma

When suffering the effects of Post-traumatic Stress, this question is most likely to come from a sense of despair. Being in a hyperaroused and/or static state is an unpleasant predicament to be in. Moreover, you can easily start to believe that it will never change.

It is important to understand that thoughts of despair and disbelief are part of the emotional state one is in. This understanding can help bring about correct perspective and remove the emphasis on giving too much importance to these thoughts and thus prevent sinking further into a state of depression.

Complex Trauma, Early Life Experiences, and Complex PTSD Treatment

Trauma and PTSD, in most cases, is not caused by a solitary incident. It is highly linked to developmental trauma issues that have formed characteristic structures; this causes individuals to be more likely to enter into situations that can be retraumatizing.

For example, someone who has never been able to fully develop a sense of independence as a child due to an over-authoritative and chiding father figure will possibly attract a future partner or circumstances where similar dynamics are at play. That partner or institution can be abusive, physically or psychologically, without any expression of resistance or outrage from the individual being abused, due to the embedded conditioning from childhood. To speak out would bring about the anger of the father and, as is the case with children, there is dependence for support, emotionally and physically, from the parents (attachment bonds). Independent thinking and acting are thereby suppressed through fear, and the subsequent stunned silence becomes the status quo.

Trauma and PTSD, in most cases, is not caused by a solitary incident. It is highly linked to developmental trauma issues that have formed characteristic structures; this causes individuals to be more likely to enter into situations that can be retraumatizing.

That same fear can prevent making clear boundaries by speaking up in adult life, while at the same time, all over again, attracting similar abusive situations and people. This is called re-enactment and is the setting for PTSD to develop. PTSD and developmental trauma issues are thus, in most cases, solidly linked.

The Different Depths of Emotional Suffering

You can work with blame, guilt, anger, fear, or overwhelming sadness related to specific events such as rape or a battle incident in a war zone that has triggered your full-blown PTSD. Having done solid work with a trusted therapist where you find things have been going uphill you suddenly may find yourself, a year or later, suffering all over again from similar symptoms. It could even make you wonder whether all the hard work that you have done was worth it.

At this point, you must realize that you are very likely coming upon something which is prior to that which you have so far worked on. The emotional residue which surfaces is associated with residual conflict at a deeper level that needs to be resolved – very possibly developmental issues.

Becoming aware of this puts you back in charge rather than returning to despair. It is up to you then how deep down the rabbit hole you want to go.

How is your process of Complex PTSD Treatment going for you? Leave your comment below.

  • Rick says:

    Thank you for this insightful article. I appreciate that you reinforce the idea that PTS can be resolved.

  • Marza says:

    I have recurring PTSD after I was sexually assaulted. I do not believe I will ever get past this. The guy wont leave me alone and is constantly seeking revenge for reporting him to the police and he wont stop. I feel helpless.

    • Carla says:

      I just moved across the country to get away from the stalker who wouldn’t leave me alone – so much for restraining orders and true support and all that! Moving while dealing with PTSD is excruciating.

      • Megan says:

        I’m sorry this happened to you. Coming out of a 5 year stalking ordeal has me completely life exhausted.

    • Marza says:

      Carla Pedersen I have done the same. The only time I feel safe is when I am alone in the mountains. I jump when I see a car like his. My stalker knows where my family lives, my kids names, address and phone numbers and place of employment. This guy brutality raped me and he has all the freedom he wants. I saw a specialist who does EMDR who said as long as he is around and I suffer from triggers, EMDR will not work because the trauma is almost daily and not something in my past. He tried to contact me online, watching my children and my moms house, but I am unable to get any help. I have attempted to take my life several times to get away from him and the memories, but I failed at that as well.

    • Roland says:

      Hi Marza. It is imperative to remove yourself from a (re)traumatizing environment first. Only when you are safe now can you start addressing the past.

  • Leslie says:

    Roland, you have articulated what I see daily. I have been working with survivors of sexual trauma since 1986.

  • Anton says:

    I have seen some examples of PTSD where it is not only developmental issues but in may ways environmental impacts that alters ones’ perception of self and feeling of helplessness. A few examples can be found in soldiers and civilian victims returning from a war zone. Another example was when I was a young therapist, i saw an elderly patient who immigrated to Canada after surviving a Nazi concentration camp where she lost her family she would frequently talk about her experience an the most emotional way.. In present times I’ve also noticed some people (mostly young women and some young men, usually gay) who suffer PTSD from being victimized by others i.e. bullying of a sexual nature, etc., and the only way out is moving to a different community, but the lack of trust and feeling of being unsafe is difficult to development and requires long-term therapy, unless there is some sort of group support.. The same might be said about other trumatic situations such as rape. A couple of other examples that is seldom discussed are racial issues where you live in a community (black or white) where you are constantly bombarded by negative comments and coerced by the legal system, even thrown in jail for no reason and no one is willing to help. One extreme case I’ve worked in are with women who have been repeatedly raped (spousal rape) in front of their children. The PTSD not only lingers but treatment is long-term and in many cases it’s necessary to move to a different environment with a different culture. Can you recover from PTSD? It depends on a number of factors. Mostly, the prognosis depends upon the desire and intellect of the person, but the memories remain.

    • Roland says:

      Sure thing it is not a golden rule that it is always traceable to early life events. As you said it can happen through repeated exposure in adult life as with emergency (health care) workers, natural disasters or those in conflict areas. Though, and I am sure that as a practitioner you see this, there are often also links to the past that has formed a persons choices and that may put them into higher risk for developing PTSD. Environment surely can be major contributor to one’s psychological state of mind.

    • Charlotte says:

      Thank you for your examples. The length of the exposure (direct and indirect), the proximity of the perceived and/or real threat, the collective traumatic memory evoked by present circumstances, all are fundamental factors to assess severity and prognosis. I am doing a research at the present time to distinguish survival skills from résilience in survivors of perpetual traumas in extreme poverty and endemic violence environment. What I am finding out is that the sense of belonging is extremely important in the recovery process. Any comments?

      • Roland says:

        The sense of belonging and the lack thereof is often at the very core of any traumatic pain I would say even if other traumas might be stacked on top of that primal wound.

  • Melissa says:

    I am a survivor of domestic abuse. I had PTSD for many years afterwards. I often wondered if the nightmares would be with me forever. I would visit my past when I was alone. I stopped thinking about the past after a time and started to live my life day by day. I moved to a different town and found love again this time it is a healthy relationship. It took a while but the night mares have stopped. I haven’t had any for a year now. I am hoping that is the end of them.

    • Roland says:

      Hi Melissa, thanks for sharing. Happy to hear you have been able to move onward and are in a healthy relationship now. Keep going.

  • Stefanie says:

    I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2007. Childhood and adulthood issues that need not go into detail. I found that in some cases I had repeated the past, while other situations I had absolutely no control over. Once I learned that I had PTSD, I needed to take back the reigns. I choose not to use medications. Instead, I use my art as means of filtering my emotions. I am able to recognize my triggers and if I am unable to get stuck, I must paint, draw, write or even sing and dance. This allows the thought to escape. From there I am able to share my paintings when asked its true meaning. PTSD needs filtering. Whats your outlet????

    • Melissa says:

      I work with a local rescue. I foster dogs and puppies, It has helped me a great deal. I find that the things I have been through in life helps me to relate on what the animals have been through. We have found for ever homes for many dogs and puppies. I find it very rewarding watching a dog that is scared or has medical problems to heal and open up. It has helped me over come the PTSD and become a stronger better person because of it. The group in the rescue is like family and they are also very supportive.

      • Roland says:

        Hi Melissa, that sounds great. Animals are a great resource to help connect with oneself again. It helps that animals don’t have any judgments.

    • Trixie says:

      You know it’s been three years since split and I can’t find my creative side. I just can’t do it..but thanks to you I think I might try that this week

  • Nancee says:

    I found this post most helpful. Thank you for this very revealing insight.

  • Linda says:

    I suffer from complex PTSD, was severely traumatized initially at age 20, but not treated for trauma as there was no such thing. I was not diagnosed for 42 years when at age 60 my PTSD became full blown due to toxic situations and people in my life. I sought out a trauma specialist who was great and helped me greatly with the feelings of being shattered. I still however feel broken and find unfortunately the older I get the harder it is to overcome set backs. I still have issues with personal safety and the only place I really feel safe is my house. I do go out because I have to but many things I am not able to do or take for granted like other people, always scanning everywhere I go. It is a daily struggle of some kind, sometimes just because things happen that are out of my control, which again only reenforces that feeling of having lost control over your life. Feelings of being happy are usually short lived, day can start out great but the brain goes somewhere (maybe I got triggered and didn’t realize it) and the feeling is lost. Maybe my unconscious mind has taken over…don’t know. Triggers are still something I don’t completely understand but I do know that noise is a big one for me. One big issue for me was loss of identity and I am still trying to reinvent myself because the person I was prior to trauma is gone. I remind myself everyday I am a survivor and practice gratitudes and try to stay positive. It is hard work!

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