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  • Writer's pictureOwen Spencer

Understanding the Impact and difference of PTSD and CPTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) are debilitating mental health conditions resulting from traumatic experiences. While PTSD often stems from a single traumatic event, CPTSD arises from prolonged and repeated trauma, typically experienced in childhood or through prolonged abuse. Both conditions profoundly impact an individual's life, influencing their emotions, thoughts, relationships, and overall well-being. In this blog post, we will explore the effects of PTSD and CPTSD, highlighting the challenges faced by those affected.

The Symptoms of PTSD and CPTSD

PTSD Symptoms

man screaming

PTSD can develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event such as a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist act, war/combat, rape, or other violent personal assaults. The symptoms of PTSD are categorized into four main types:

  1. Intrusive Memories:

  • Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event.

  • Flashbacks or reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again.

  • Disturbing dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event.

  1. Avoidance:

  • Avoiding places, activities, or people that remind the individual of the traumatic event.

  • Avoiding thinking or talking about the traumatic event.

  1. Negative Changes in Thinking and Mood:

  • Negative thoughts about oneself or others.

  • Feelings of hopelessness about the future.

  • Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event.

  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships.

  1. Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms:

  • Being easily startled or frightened.

  • Always being on guard for danger.

  • Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast.

  • Trouble sleeping and concentrating.

  • Irritability, angry outbursts, or aggressive behaviour.

CPTSD Symptoms

person struggling with life

CPTSD includes all the symptoms of PTSD but adds other symptoms that reflect the impact of prolonged trauma. These additional symptoms include:

  1. Affective Dysregulation:

  • Difficulty controlling emotions, leading to intense episodes of anger, depression, or anxiety.

  • Emotional numbness or feeling detached from one’s emotions.

  1. Negative Self-Concept:

  • Persistent feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or shame.

  • A sense of being completely different from other people (e.g., "I am permanently damaged").

  1. Interpersonal Difficulties:

  • Problems in forming and maintaining close relationships.

  • Distrust of others or a constant feeling of being betrayed.

  • Seeking out relationships that can lead to re-victimization.

Daily Life Disruptions

woman looking worried

Living with PTSD or CPTSD can significantly impair an individual’s ability to function in everyday life. Here are some ways these conditions can affect daily living:

  1. Emotional Instability:

  • Frequent mood swings and intense emotional responses can make it difficult to engage in daily activities or maintain relationships.

  1. Physical Health Issues:

  • The chronic stress associated with PTSD and CPTSD can lead to various physical health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal issues, and chronic pain.

  1. Cognitive Impairments:

  • Problems with memory, attention, and executive function can interfere with work, education, and daily tasks.

  1. Social Isolation:

  • Avoidance behaviours and difficulties in trusting others often lead to social withdrawal and isolation, exacerbating feelings of loneliness and depression.

  1. Impacts on Work and Education:

  • Difficulty concentrating, coupled with emotional and physical health issues, can impair an individual’s ability to perform at work or school, potentially leading to job loss or academic failure.


PTSD and CPTSD are serious conditions that extend beyond mere psychological distress, deeply affecting every facet of an individual’s life. Understanding these impacts is crucial for fostering empathy and support for those affected. While the journey to recovery can be challenging, recognizing the symptoms and the profound impact of these conditions is the first step towards healing. With appropriate support and treatment, individuals with PTSD and CPTSD can regain control of their lives and work towards a future not defined by their trauma but by their resilience and strength.



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