At the Tapestry Counselling Centre, we specialize in working with people who have experienced any form of abuse in their childhood, whether sexual, physical and/or emotional. For some, the abuse was so severe, prolonged and traumatic that it has led to what can be called “Complex PTSD” in adulthood.

According to Judith Herman, a psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of incest and traumatic stress, and who first coined the term Complex PTSD, there are 6 possible symptoms:

1. You find it almost impossible to control your own emotions, especially anger. Your emotions seem to have a life of their own, and you may engage in self-harming or suicidal behaviours.
2. You notice that sometimes your thoughts or feelings don’t seem real to you, you lose all sense of identity, you feel disconnected from yourself, and/or you “zone out.”
3. You experience physical problems or pain that is related to how your body holds the trauma. Some examples are, digestive problems, heart palpitations, panic, or physical pain.
4. You see yourself as very different from others, permanently altered or damaged, or you hold a great deal of shame, guilt and self-blame because of the trauma or abuse.
5. You find it very difficult to trust others, you sometimes find yourself in a very risky situation where you end up getting re-victimized or you sometimes victimize others.
6. You feel a sense of despair and hopelessness about life and may experience a loss of beliefs or meaning that you previously held.

Sometimes people who have Complex PTSD also have extreme feelings toward the perpetrator of their abuse or trauma, either idealizing them or fantasizing about hurting them. This symptom is common but not necessary for a diagnosis of Complex PTSD.

If you have experienced abuse or a traumatic event in your past and you think you see yourself in this description of Complex PTSD above, don’t wait any longer to get help.