Complex trauma is still a relatively new field of psychology. Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, results from enduring complex trauma.
Complex trauma is ongoing or repeated interpersonal trauma, where the victim is traumatised in captivity, and where there is no perceived way to escape. Ongoing child abuse, is captivity abuse, because the child cannot escape. Domestic violence, is another example. Enforced prostitution/sex trafficking is another.
Complex PTSD is a proposed disorder, which is different to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many of the issues and symptoms endured by complex trauma survivors, are outside of the list of symptoms within the (Uncomplicated) PTSD diagnostic criterion. Complex PTSD does acknowledge and validate these added symptoms.
The impact of complex trauma, is very different to a one time or short lived trauma. The effect of repeated/ongoing trauma – caused by people – changes the brain, and also changes the survivor at a core level. It changes the way survivors view the world, other people and themselves, in profound ways.
The following are some of the symptoms and impact, most felt by complex trauma survivors.
1. Deep Fear Of Trust
People who endure ongoing abuse, particularly from significant people in their lives, develop an intense, and understandable fear of trusting people. If the abuse was parents, or caregivers, this intensifies. Ongoing trauma, wires the brain for fear and distrust. It becomes the way the brain copes with any further potential abuse. Complex trauma survivors often find trusting people very difficult, and it takes little for any trust built, to be destroyed. The brain senses issues and this overwhelms the already severely traumatised brain. This fear of trust, is very impacting in a survivors life. Learning to trust, can be learned, with support and an understanding of trusting people slowly and carefully.
2. Terminal Aloneness
This is a phrase I used to describe to my counsellor, the terribly painful aloneness I have always felt as a complex trauma survivor. Survivors often feel so little connection and trust with people, they remain in a terrible state of aloneness, even when surrounded by people. I described it once, as having a glass wall between myself and other people. I can see them, but I cannot connect with them.
Another issue that increases this aloneness, is feeling different to other people. Feeling damaged, broken and feeling unable to be like other people, can haunt a survivor, increasing the loneliness.