What is trauma, complex trauma and PTSD?

Katy Kandaris-Weiner, LPC

“Anything less than nurturing” - Judy Crane, founder of The Refuge – A Healing Place, a treatment center for addiction, trauma and PTSD recovery.

Trauma feels like and sounds like a massive word. Often people only think of trauma as something that happens to those who go off to war or people in natural or man-made disasters; however, it is much more. Judy Crane says it perfectly:

“Trauma is anything less than nurturing that changes

your vision of yourself and your place in the world”

Traumas happen when one event changes how you feel.  Most often this change in feeling is reflected in an individual feeling unsafe. Such as after a car accident you might be afraid or nervous to get in a car again. However, traumas can also happen in the little and big moments of someone's life. It can be repeated neglect, or just inability to attune to a child’s needs. It can be an abusive relationship or a continued stressful event (someone in the family using drugs) that changes your world view. These repeated traumas are often referred to as complex trauma. Complex trauma (Complex PTDS/CPTSD) often changes one’s view of self and shows up in feelings of worthlessness, not good enough and helplessness. It penetrates our whole lives.  Often many people do not realize that they have complex trauma. Complex trauma is subtle and often show up in the family system. Often many people do not realize that they have complex trauma because the events are not the traditional ones we think about when we think trauma. Frequently people who have complex trauma come to therapy for relationship problems, severe anxiety, depression, and self-esteem.  

Another effect of complex trauma is that it turns up (or sometimes down) the volume on our reactions. What I mean by this is that maybe you get in a fight with your roommate and it feels like a 5 out of 10 but your reaction is a 10 out of 10. This fight triggers older memories of when your parents use to fight.  This causes an increase in the volume of your present reactions. But wait? What? Yes, even when we are not conscious those old memories can be activated and make an impact on the now. The flip side is that trauma can dull our reactions and what should be a 5 out of 10 is now a 1 or a 0 out of 10. Does this sound familiar? Do your reactions never quite fit the now, and people often remark that your reactions seem to big or too small? If so, you might have complex trauma.

To help you see more of the big picture, here are the most common symptoms of trauma/PTSD:

·         Anxiety

·         Feeling overwhelmed

·         Nightmares

·         Flashbacks (feeling as though one is reliving an event)

·         Being jumpy or always needing to know one surroundings (hypervigilance)

·         Feeling numb to the world

·         Feeling disconnected from others

·         Avoiding people, places and things relating to the event(s)

·         Mistrust of others

·         Loss of pleasure in things you once loved

·         Social isolation

·         Sleep too much or not enough

·         Unwanted thoughts

·         Feelings of helplessness  

·         Over or under reacting to situations

·         Trouble feeling good about yourself

Those who suffer from trauma and do not know they have it, still suffer greatly from the symptoms. Many people do not know that there is help for those who have trauma complex trauma and PTSD. You do not have to suffer in silence and can find relief and heal. We specialize in treating all types of trauma and have helped many individuals walk thought and heal their trauma. There is hope for those who suffer from trauma, do not wait a minute longer to find relief.

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Katy Kandaris-Weiner, LPC

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