what is complex trauma?
Complex Trauma, or Complex PTSD (C-PTSD) was first developed by Judith Herman, M.D., author of Trauma and Recovery, one of the first books on the topic of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She developed a new diagnosis to encompass a broader range of symptoms frequently shown by adult patients with a history of chronic childhood abuse and/or neglect. Although the diagnosis is not formally recognized by the DSM-5, growing bodies of clinical evidence shows that it affects many individuals, often creating serious lifelong impairment unless treated. According to the PTSD: National Center for PTSD, some key symptoms and indicators of C-PTSD include:
- Struggles with behavior choices (including substance use and acting out or destructive behaviors)
- Emotional difficulties (mood lability, rage, depression, panic)
- Dissociation or memory impairment
- Chaotic personal relationships
- Physical symptoms: headaches, body aches, health issues
- History of trauma of an ongoing nature, particularly in childhood
- Difficulty feeling body sensations or emotions
You can heal from Complex Trauma & PTSD
“When the truth is finally recognized, survivors can begin their recovery.” JudithHerman, M.D.
a path forward
Like any challenging journey, the road to moving beyond trauma is best traveled with an experienced guide. I’ve been on this road myself, and there’s nothing that makes me more inspired than leading fellow survivors to finding their voice, and speaking their Truth.
Over the last few years, research in the area of trauma is exploding, with neuroscience discoveries explaining more and more about what trauma does to our brain and body. The evidence overwhelmingly supports a mind-body connection as essential to healing complex trauma. As a social worker and yoga teacher, I’ve successfully used evidence-based treatments with clients recovering from childhood abuse, neglect, and chronic feelings of emptiness.
The modalities and techniques I utilize include: EMDR, Trauma Sensitive Yoga, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), Breathwork, and various other somatic experiencing techniques that allow non-verbal (emotional) memory and sensations to be safely brought into conscious awareness.
Why the buffalo?
There’s a little-known fact about buffalo (bison) which makes them the perfect animal to model how to heal from Complex Trauma. On the prairie, storms brew up fast and strong. Cows, a cousin of the bison, will sense the storm and start moving away from it, attempting to avoid the pain. But, the storm only follows them, blowing across as they endure more and more suffering. Unlike the bovine, brave bison run right into the storm. They know that it will pass faster this way. They head into the suffering, deal with the painful experience of wind, rain, and sleet hitting them, and come out on the other side faster than if they had tried to get away.
Trauma lives in the body. The felt memory of what happened gets stuck on pause, effectively closing us off to any new learning or living experiences. While we may look happy and successful on the outside, on the inside, it is taking tremendous emotional energy and effort to maintain (or create) a sense of safety. Over time, this survival mechanism will break down and fail us. Meanwhile, blocked from living life fully in the present, we also continue a tragic replaying of trauma over and over within the body.
The sooner we can face the storm of our past trauma, bravely, taking the road into the storm, the sooner we will be free of it. The storms of the past are over, but your body doesn’t know that yet. Today’s problems, relationships, disappointments, and struggles will continue to feel just as real as when they happened… even 20, 30, 40 years ago. It is not too late to face those storms, and leave them in the past where they belong.
Let’s walk the road of healing together.
It is within the context of our early relationships that we lay out a roadmap for how to relate to ourselves for a lifetime; the suffering associated with abusive or neglectful early relationships is perpetuated, ad infinitum, through the relationship with ourself. Unless we do something about it.David Emerson
If you are in crisis, please, text or call the National suicide Lifeline.
You are not alone. There is always help.