CPTSD is exactly like the kind of PTSD we are all familiar with except that  instead of having to survive in a war zone or having a series of horrific experiences, it is an all too common response to childhood emotional neglect, abandonment or physical, emotional, sexual abuse.  Most people who have it don't even know that they do and it is a relatively new understanding of just what happens in the adult lives of children who come from highly dysfunctional family backgrounds.  The parents of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder sufferers may have had a mental illness, addiction, alcoholism, chronic illness or narcissism.   The family environment could have been  a violent one where the child commonly witnessed domestic violence.  They could have been just very self-absorbed and lacking emotional engagement and good enough parenting skills.  What research is discovering is that emotional neglect and just not being seen or validated is more painful form of Childhood Trauma and causes more lasting damage to a child than being hit.

This is not a blame game, parents who emotionally neglect or abandon their children are usually victims of the same treatment in their own childhoods.  This negative emotional response to life unfortunately gets handed down from one generation to the next.

It is often difficult for sufferers of CPTSD to even acknowledge what the truth of their childhood was.  We all want to believe in the fantasy that we had a happy childhood.  Our lives are complex with good days and bad but what typifies CPTSD is a persistent experience of abuse and neglect in childhood.

We are seeing CPTSD become more noticeable because of the breakdown of marriage and relationship and the all too common abandonment of children by one parent.  I am not blaming anyone here either, I was a single mother even though all I wanted was a stable family.  Sometimes even having one stable loving parent cannot make up for the abandonment of the other.    It is a survival instinct in all children to be 'seen' otherwise they could die.  Children's "Mum look at me!" responses are primal.  If they aren't seen they could die because they are vulnerable and unable to take care of themselves.

Boys need to know they are loved and seen and accepted by their Dads and girls by their Mums.  Our opposite parent is often the blueprint of our future attraction responses so an emotional neglected daughter will seek out men who are like her Dad in an unconscious drive to get him to love her.  It works the same for boys.

I believe that many people who are diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder have CPTSD.  Prominent Canadian doctor, Gabor Mate, who has spend his life working with alcoholics and drug addicts believes that the root cause of all of them is childhood trauma.

There is hope however because now that we are starting to understand the cause we can direct therapy to the right place and help sufferers to heal.  It's not a  quick fix, it takes time and sufferers of CPTSD could well be in recovery for the rest of their lives. The good news is we are making headway in helping and transforming people's lives as we begin to fully understand more and more every day.

I am the scapegoat child of a dysfunctional family overshadowed by alcohol abuse and mental illness that was never acknowledged or allowed to be spoken of.  Every adult relationship I had was with an alcoholic, some of them had later diagnosed mental illness such as BPD and Bi-Polar Disorder.  I could not stay in these relationships because of violence and emotional abuse and so my children paid the price.  My longing as a Life Coach is to stop CPTSD from being passed down from one generation to the next.

If you believe this may be your story too, I'd love to hear from you and maybe I can help.

Common Symptoms of CPTSD

  • Emotional Flashbacks
  • Tyrannical Inner Critic
  • Toxic Shame
  • Self-Abandonment
  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of loneliness & abandonment
  • Fragile Self-Esteem
  • Attachment Disorder
  • Developmental Arrests
  • Relationship Difficulties
  • Radical Mood Swings
  • Dissociation
  • Hair Triggered Flight/Fight Response
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Self-Harming
  • Oversensitivity to Stress
  • Hypervigilence
  • Controlling

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