In Person and Online Therapy Sessions Available | (616) 309 0737
2460 Burton St SE #101, Grand Rapids, MI 49546
In Person and Online Therapy Sessions Available | (616) 309 0737
2460 Burton St SE #101, Grand Rapids, MI 49546

What Is Complex Trauma and How Is It Treated?

Traumatic experiences stay with a person. Even if it happened decades ago, the emotional toll of trauma may still linger. For many people, experiencing something traumatic, regardless of what it is, isn’t something they can just get over quickly.

Traumatic experiences are broken down into two different categories — either PTSD or C-PTSD. Most people have heard of PTSD but may have never heard about C-PTSD. Here’s what C-PTSD is and how to treat it.

What Is Complex Trauma?

First, let’s talk about PTSD in general. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can happen to anyone for any reason. When most people refer to PTSD, they are talking about singular events that occur. Think along the lines of a car accident or being the victim of a crime. Singular traumatic experiences can be complex, but there is a difference in what we are referring to as C-PTSD.

C-PTSD stands for complex post-traumatic stress disorder. C-PTSD refers to traumatic events that someone is repeatedly exposed to. There is no set length of time for this, but typically, they would have been exposed to the trauma for a few weeks, months, or years. The following list contains some examples of cases where C-PTSD has happened:

  • Domestic abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Childhood abuse
  • Kidnappings
  • Sex trafficking
  • Emotional abuse
  • Experiencing war

Signs of C-PTSD

woman holding her head

Not every person will experience PTSD or C-PTSD symptoms in the exact same way. Someone experiencing C-PTSD will, more than likely, experience some signs of PTSD in addition to the symptoms specific to C-PTSD.

PTSD symptoms may include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Intrusive memories
  • Nightmares
  • Avoiding triggering places, people, or activities
  • Irritablility
  • Insomnia
  • Restless/On the edge
  • Negative thought patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Emotional numbness

C-PTSD may also include:

  • Dissociation
  • Difficulty maintaining or establishing relationships with others
  • Negative perception of the world or people in it

How to Treat C-PTSD

Healing from any type of trauma is complex. However, the good news is that regardless of what type of trauma occurred, it is absolutely possible to heal. Please keep in mind that healing from trauma of any kind won’t be an overnight process. There are many ways to treat trauma, but one of the most effective ways to heal is through therapy.

While it may not be instantaneous, you will probably notice that you are seeing some improvements within a few therapeutic intervention sessions. There are different approaches to treating trauma, but one of the most effective is EMDR therapy.

EMDR Therapy

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing(EMDR) was founded to help those who had experienced a traumatic event. Whether the traumatic event was singular or prolonged, EMDR is a powerful approach to healing.

EMDR is based on the foundation that, when we are in the REM stage of sleep, we process memories. As these memories are processed, our eyes dart back and forth rapidly. EMDR works by mimicking that during a therapy session. Using guided hand and eye movements, your therapist will ask you to focus on a specific memory. Picture a locked box that sets between a left and right wall. This locked box represents unprocessed trauma that is still affecting you. These guided movements force your brain’s left and right hemispheres to connect to this locked box.

As EMDR therapy progresses, even in the most complex cases, you will find that the impact of trauma will begin to affect you a little less. The goal of EMDR is not to make you completely forget that you went through something harrowing. Instead, it is to get you to a place where the past no longer feels as haunting.

If you are interested in learning more about EMDR or trauma therapy, don’t hesitate to reach out.

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