Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) is a new way of describing how long term stress and anxiety affect neurological development and behaviour.
C-PTSD differs from PTSD in that there is no obvious "traumatic shock". The flashbacks and event associated nightmares characteristic of PTSD are often not present, though a somatic (body) re-experiencing without cognitive understanding may occur. Research seems to indicate that as with PTSD, C-PTSD issues are linked with memory, with the difference that the C-PTSD client often has impaired episodic memory of the period during which the stress and anxiety was occurring.
The C-PTSD process is one of disconnection and defence against the seriousness of the situation. The neurochemical reaction of the brain to the stress over a long period of time results in visible changes to the brain structure. Fortunately this can be reversed with therapy.
It is prevalent in people who have experienced long term emotional or physical abuse and have been unable to escape the threatening or abusive environment because of age or dependancy. It is common in partners or children of alcoholics, addicts and abusive narcissists. It is also commonly associated with long term bullying in the school or workplace. It can happen at any age, however the younger the victim the more likely there will be long term effects on health and wellbeing. C-PTSD victims often develop long term chronic problems with mental and physical health, addictive, harmful behaviours and problems forming stable, emotionally supportive relationships.
C-PTSD developed out of the work of Bessel van der Kolk who became interested in why conventional PTSD treatments did not work on a significant number of his clients. His work was complemented by that of Gabor Mate working with addictive personalities. Both researchers became aware that a majority of the people they were were working with had what is now called "adverse childhood experience" which is a catchall phrase used to describe a wide range of relational challenges in childhood.
van der Kolk and Mate surmise that chronic stress and anxiety affect how the brain develops and reacts to the environment, and this can happen at any time of life, though childhood is the most vulnerable time.
TA is useful for this as it hooks into the concept of "mental force" advocated by Schwartz and meets Cozolino's 4 criteria for enhanced neurogenesis (growth of brain connections).
TA therapy for C-PTSD focusses on the following
1) Creation of a safe and trusting relationship between therapist and client
2) Establishment of a cognitive framework for emotions and sensations
3) The co-creation of a new narrative about what has happened and it's links to the present
4) Creating "just enough" stress to stimulate neurogenesis
TA is unusual in providing all four of Cozolino's requirements, making it ideal for C-PTSD treatment.
If you'd like more information or set up your introductory session please contact me here.