Sanctuary for the Abused

Thursday, December 19, 2013

High Conflict Relationships Can Lead to C-PTSD


  by Randi Kreger

If you've been involved in a high-conflict relationship, you're probably familiar with feelings of shame, guilt, and self-blame. Perhaps you're ruminating about the relationship and feel hopeless and despair. You may even be suicidal.

If the stress of a high conflict goes on for many years  [such as those with a pathological parent who then goes on to series of pathological partners or coworkers] or is very intense, you may have a variant of PTSD called complex post traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). It's not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, but it is widely accepted: some people see it as a combination of PTSD and the Stockholm Syndrome.

Let's take it one step at a time.

Clinical psychologist Dr Joseph M Carver, PhD, says in an online discussion that, "Every victim of abuse experiences some, if not multiple, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)."  Carver writes:

"[T]hese symptoms linger many years; some for a lifetime. Everyone knows this but it's rarely bought up... During our period of abuse, the brain collects thousands of memories that contain details of our abusive experiences and the feelings (horror, terror, pain, etc.) made at that time. In what we call "traumatic recollection," any similar experience in the future will recall the emotional memory of the abuse, forcing us to relive the event in detail and feeling.

[NOTE: Even remotely similar events, no matter how 'silly' or 'crazy' to others it may seem - can cause PTSD and C-PTSD behaviors such as extreme or irrational fear, lashing out, acting "in", sleeplessness, anxiety and a host of other problems that can interfere with daily functioning and relationships.]

Most people think of PTSD as happening only to people who have been in extreme circumstances, such as war veterans. However, in her book Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence--from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror (1997) Judith Herman describes a subtype of PTSD she calls complex post traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD).

Forms of trauma that can lead to C-PTSD

These include:

Signs of PTSD

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, PTSD symptoms can be grouped into three categories:

1. Re-experiencing symptoms:

2. Avoidance symptoms:

3. Hyperarousal symptoms:

Signs of Complex PTSD (C-PTSD)



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shared by Barbara at 12:41 AM


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10 Comments:

it's a long walk home from this dark place. i have no idea how long a journey to heal. thank you for sharing this. i am finding, through writing poetry, a way out of this fog of c-ptsd. and along the way, discovering myself. i am glad to find your information.

6:40 PM  

I think that I have PTSD from living in an abusive marriage for more than 20 years.

I really want out, but it's very complicated. I don't know how you could heal from an ordeal like this.

4:41 PM  

ive lived thru childhood sexual abuse & then married 16 yrs with a monster who not only abused me physically, mentally and emotional but the last 6 months of marriage he raped me and my childhood memories I suppressed for so long are now NIGHTMARES!! I got away and found a wonderful man but because of manic deppression, personality disorder and c-ptsd i lost everything!!!! DOES THE PAIN AND NIGHTMARES GO AWAY????????

11:37 PM  

Yes its wonderful to recognize all these horrible symptoms in myself and put a name to it and understand why I have them but what do I do about it? Meds don't seem to be helping....counselling doesn't seem to make a difference...How long will I experience this and will I ever feel OK?

10:06 PM  

I am finally divorcing my violent abusive husband after 26 years together . Thank goodness the strength to do it came to me . If you are I'n a relationship with an abusive man tell your parents or friends. Don't cover it up it . I called the police they were so helpful and supportive . He tried to convince them because he is a doctor that I was over reacting and mentally ill . The training they received allowed them to see through hiim . There is a way out.

6:45 PM  

I withdrew, got a puppy, exercise every day for 2 hours with the dog outside, and focus on work. I believe I will slowly allow others close to me, but don't yet trust anyone. However, the up side is taking the time away from everyone allows me to heal without protecting myself from others. So I would say from this experience, yes, it is possible to "heal" by learning to depend on yourself, love your life ALONE, trust what you absolutely believe in, and figure out why you let damaged people in to hurt you so you can learn to choose more wisely. Enjoy: loving pet, sunshine and fresh air, exercise and sore muscles, and quiet - you will see what I mean. Deb

12:06 AM  

I was in an abusive marriage for 13 years. you need to get out now! I know it's not easy to leave there's always the where will I go how will i take care of myself but trust me if you have one family member or one friend willing to take you in and help you take it!!

11:03 AM  

I agree. Its slow but it is helping

12:09 PM  

I thought I had help to escape a 14 year abusive relationship with two children. We were made victims after leaving through strong use of the courts and friend of the court and cps not doing what they are supposed to and also being used as a tool. We have lived in hell for the last eight years. I never got the kids safely away and we live every day in increasing poverty as well as constant never ending fear. I was told to leave "for the kid's sake if not for your own." You have no legal rights if you run somewhere that has no pro bono lawyers. Legal aid does not help and you can end up with seizures from your PTSD from the repeated terrifying stuff the state puts you through. Be careful if you leave.my children and I are the part of the story that has no voice. Know ahead of time what you could face if you leave. Remember that the homicide rate goes up just *after* you leave and run and stay hidden for a while if you go. And go somewhere that has "pro bono lawyers". Legal aid does not help. The damage that can be done with the state's help is immense. Don't go where you have no protection. Shelters can be no real help. I ran to two.

11:17 AM  

Just had a series of nightmares prior to returning home from a long business trip. PSTD is wearing on me. My wife has already been jailed one for physically assaulting me. Husbands are the silent victims.

10:01 AM  

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