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
- Physical abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Domestic violence
- Verbal Abuse
- Psychological Abuse
- Sexual abuse (especially child sexual abuse)
Signs of PTSD
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, PTSD symptoms can be grouped into three categories:
1. Re-experiencing symptoms:
- Flashbacks-reliving the trauma over and over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating.
- Bad dreams.
- Frightening thoughts.
2. Avoidance symptoms:
- Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry
- Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past
- Having trouble remembering the dangerous event.
3. Hyperarousal symptoms:
- Being easily startled
- Feeling tense or "on edge"
- Having difficulty sleeping
- Having angry outbursts.
Signs of Complex PTSD (C-PTSD)
- Persistent anxiety, anguish, and depression
- Feeling suicidal
- Exploding with anger / or being unable to express anger.
- Forgetting traumatic events or remembering them in a fragmented way
- Being preoccupied with or reliving traumatic events
- Feeling helpless, powerless
- Experiencing shame, guilt, and self-blame
- Feeling stigmatized
- Feeling different from others; utterly alone
- Accepting the belief system or rationalizations of the blamer
- Experiencing isolation and withdrawal from others or doing things to push others away
- Persistent distrust of others
- Repeatedly failing to protect yourself
- Loss of a faith that used to sustain you
- Having a sense of hopelessness and despair
Labels: abuse, bullying, complex ptsd, high conflict, minimizing, narcissist, psychopath, ptsd, sociopath, stockholm syndrome, trauma