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Complex PTSD: Symptoms and Treatment Options

What is Complex PTSD?

You may have heard of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and its occurrence in around 7% of the total population (Gilles, 2018). Those with PTSD develop it from extremely traumatic life events. Complex PTSD is still under review by practitioners for being deemed an independent condition (Rosen, 2022). You may be asking, what differs complex PTSD from PTSD? Researches have found that complex PTSD is a condition that can develop from persistent instances of trauma, usually created in childhood (Gilles, 2018; Rosen, 2022). Numerous factors can contribute to complex PTSD with some examples being persistent exposure to child abuse, neglect, domestic violence, growing up in an unstable household, chronic poverty etc. (Rosen, 2022). It is important to note that one instance of experiencing an adverse situation does not necessarily mean you have complex PTSD, however, do seek professional help and diagnosis for your case.

What symptoms are often associated with Complex PTSD?

  • Difficulty controlling or properly expressing emotions

  • Having a negative self-image and low levels of self-efficacy

  • An inability to handle criticism

  • A lack of trust and finding it difficult to maintain close relationships with others

  • Always finding yourself in a flight or fight response

  • Avoiding uncomfortable situations and coping through people pleasing

  • Disassociating from reality when triggered

  • Become pre-occupied with who traumatized them

How do you help treat complex PTSD?

There are numerous ways to help cope with complex PTSD. Below are some evidence-based approaches to coping with complex PTSD symptoms (Gilles, 2018; Rosen, 2022).

  • Psychotherapy allows you to address the feelings, triggers and symptoms that manifested from this trauma. It also creates a safe environment to learn to cope with negative experiences and feelings that may arise from these adverse experiences (Gilles, 2018). Therapy approaches such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), mindfulness approaches and somatic experiencing techniques have been shown to be effective treatments for trauma symptoms. Although your psychotherapist is not able to officially diagnose you, if you suspect you have symptoms, they are able to administer informal PTSD assessments. You can then take this assessment to your general practitioner or psychologist and receive an official diagnosis if deemed necessary by the professional.

  • Medication although there is no specific medication that treats Complex PTSD, if you have comorbid disorders that make it difficult to seek treatment, or have led to the development of substance abuse then medication may help (Rosen, 2022). Please speak to your doctor about your symptoms and possible treatment options as everyone's mental health journey is unique.

Takeaway: Although this blog post is meant to serve as a tool for gaining knowledge and understanding what complex PTSD is, it's important to note this does not serve as a diagnostic criterion. We at Blissful Balance Counselling want to validate and support you in working through your trauma but do not have the professional ability to officially diagnose you with any disorder. If you feel you have a majority of these symptoms and have experienced numerous adverse life events then you should talk to your family doctor or clinician for further assistance.


Gilles, G. (2018, September 29). Complex PTSD: Symptoms, tests, treatment, and finding support. Healthline., from

Rosen, D. A. (2022, September 2). Complex PTSD. Center for Treatment of Anxiety & Mood Disorders, from

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