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Complex Childhood PTSD

Aug 15, 2023

Several factors can lead to children with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) receiving delayed or restricted support early in life. These elements might differ based on the circumstances and setting. Still, some common causes include a lack of awareness, hidden symptoms, trauma secrecy and shame, and limited mental health services. In this blog post, we’ll explain the impact of Childhood Complex PTSD and how leaving it untreated can affect you.

Several factors can contribute to the delayed or limited help children with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) receive early in life. A lack of awareness can result in the symptoms being overlooked or misunderstood as typical behavioral issues or reactions to stressful events. Some C-PTSD symptoms in children can present differently compared to adults and may go unnoticed. Limited access to mental health services can be another factor. Also, secrecy and shame can develop when trauma is stigmatized to the point where children keep it hidden. Children who have experienced ongoing trauma can benefit from early intervention to minimize the long-term effects of C-PTSD.

If you or a loved one need help, call our admissions team today at 561-841-1033.

What Is Childhood C–PTSD?

Childhood Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) is a term used to characterize the impact on children of prolonged or repeated traumatic events. Although C-PTSD is not officially classified as a separate diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), it is largely accepted by trauma specialists. C-PTSD is most commonly caused by early exposure to chronic interpersonal trauma, such as physical or sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, or protracted separation from caregivers. Traumatic events are frequently intense, widespread, and last a long time. Children suffering from C-PTSD may experience strong and variable emotions and trouble self-soothing and regulating their emotional reactions. They may have a skewed or negative self-concept, poor self-esteem, feelings of guilt or shame, and a sense of helplessness or powerlessness. Children with C-PTSD may struggle to build and sustain relationships, including trust issues, attachment issues, and social interaction concerns. Also, they may display impulsive or reckless behavior, hostility, self-destructive tendencies, attention and memory issues, and negative beliefs about other people and the world.

What Happens When Childhood C-PTSD Goes Untreated?

In many cases, Childhood Complex PTSD goes not get any attention until a person is well beyond their formative years. When Childhood Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) goes untreated, it can have significant and long-lasting consequences on a child’s well-being, development, and overall functioning. Some potential consequences of untreated C-PTSD in children include impaired emotional well-being, disrupted social and interpersonal functioning, academic and cognitive difficulties, physical health problems, self-destructive behaviors, and a long-term impact on adult functioning.

Emotional well-being: Untreated C-PTSD in children can cause chronic and strong negative feelings such as anxiety, fear, sorrow, wrath, and humiliation. They may struggle with emotion regulation and be prone to emotional outbursts or numbness. Untreated C-PTSD can lead to the development of additional mental health problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, or substance use.

Social and interpersonal life: Children with untreated C-PTSD frequently struggle to build and maintain good connections. They may have trust issues, attachment issues, display violent or impulsive conduct, or engage in self-isolation. These difficulties can last into adulthood and may influence their ability to form and maintain meaningful relationships.

Academic and cognitive issues: Untreated C-PTSD can negatively influence a child’s cognitive functioning and academic achievement. They could struggle with attention, focus, memory, and learning. This can lead to academic underachievement, school avoidance, and other educational difficulties.

Physical health issues: Untreated C-PTSD might lead to physical health problems. Children with C-PTSD are likelier to experience somatic problems, such as headaches, stomachaches, or other inexplicable physical symptoms. Chronic stress caused by C-PTSD can also lead to long-term physical health difficulties such as cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disorders, and impaired immune system function.

Self-destructive behaviors: Untreated C-PTSD may cause some youngsters to engage in self-destructive actions in order to deal with their emotional distress or regain control. Self-harm, substance addiction, unsafe sexual activity, and participation in harmful activities are examples of these behaviors.

Long-term impact on adult functioning: If untreated, C-PTSD can last into adulthood, with serious effects in many aspects of life. Adults who have untreated C-PTSD as a kid may encounter difficulties in their relationships, career or academic performance, overall mental health, and capacity to live a happy and rewarding life.

How Is Childhood C-PTSD Treated?

Early intervention and therapy are critical for reducing the long-term effects of Childhood Complex PTSD. Trauma-informed treatments, such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), play therapy, or other evidence-based techniques, can assist children in healing from trauma and developing better coping skills. Providing a secure and supportive environment, addressing their emotional needs, and integrating caregivers in the therapy process can help them heal and thrive. For people whose childhood C-PTSD is only beginning to be addressed during adulthood, the goals of evidence-based techniques remain the same as they learn how to deal with unpleasant emotions in a healthy and productive manner, how to improve their communication abilities, how to express anger and fear in healthy ways, and how to handle C-PTSD symptoms without using drugs or alcohol.

How Can I Get Help for Someone with Childhood C-PTSD?

If you or someone you know is suffering from C-PTSD, it is critical that they get treatment from a trauma-focused mental health professional. Furthermore, people who are experiencing substance use difficulties as a result of unmet mental health requirements can discover treatment alternatives to address both alcohol and drug problems at the same time through Hanley. When treating individuals with both C-PTSD and substance use disorders, a comprehensive and integrated therapeutic plan is frequently necessary. Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), as well as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) or other treatments, may be used to alleviate C-PTSD symptoms. Getting the support you need to manage symptoms and learn how to make better choices can help you or someone you know create a sustainable road to wellness.

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