Difference Between PTSD and Complex PTSD

Key Difference – PTSD vs Complex PTSD
 

Although PTSD and Complex PTSD are related to one another, there exists a clear difference between these two mental illnesses. PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Complex PTSD stands for Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. When speaking of PTSD, there are mainly five categories of the illness. They are the normal stress response, acute stress disorder, uncomplicated PTSD, comorbid PTSD, and the complex PTSD. Hence, Complex PTSD can be considered as a subcategory of PTSD. The key difference between PTSD and Complex PTSD is that, in Complex PTSD, the individual is exposed to a sequence of traumatic events, not a single traumatic event. Through this article let us examine the differences between the two illnesses in more detail.

What is PTSD?

PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental disorder categorized under anxiety disorders. PTSD can occur when an individual faces a traumatic event such as war, accidents, sexual abuse, etc. It is quite normal for an individual to feel traumatized and affected when faced with such events. However, if the trauma prevails for a longer period, the individual can be considered as suffering from PTSD. Such an individual can have recurrent nightmares, feel hopeless and estranged, displays a lack of interest in daily activities, etc.

Diagnosing an individual with PTSD, has to be conducted in a systematic manner. Mainly there are three types of symptoms that can be observed.

  1. Intrusions
  2. Avoidance
  3. Hyperarousal

Under the first category, the individual can experience recurrent thoughts, images of the traumatic event, nightmares, hallucinations, etc. The key characteristic is that the individual relives the experience. Under the second category, behaviors of avoidance such as staying away from the place where the accident occurred, isolation, lack of interest in activities can be seen. Under the third category, the individual displays hyper vigilance, starting at the slightest incidents, sudden bursts of anger, and irritability can be observed.

In most cases, PTSD is difficult to recognize as it is coupled with other mental disorders such as depression, somatoform disorders, memory problems, etc. PTSD can have a great impact on both the personal and professional life of the person, as he isolates himself from his usual environment. This can even lead to other issues such as in relationships, work, family, etc.

According to psychologists, PTSD can be treated with counseling and also with the use of medication such as antidepressants. Now let us move on to Complex PTSD.

Difference Between PTSD and Complex PTSD

What is Complex PTSD?

Complex PTSD can be understood as a categorization of PTSD. This is also referred to as Disorder of Extreme Stress. The key difference between PTSD and Complex PTSD is that in Complex PTSD the individual is exposed to a sequence of traumatic events, not a single traumatic event. Due to this, medication and treatment of complex PTSD patients take much longer. Their progression rate can also be comparatively slow. Complex PTSD can result due to a traumatic situation such as domestic violence, or child abuse that goes on for a longer period, concentration camps, war experiences, etc.

In Complex PTSD also, a number of symptoms can be presented. The main symptoms of Intrusion, Avoidance, and hyperarousal, can be seen in those who suffer from complex PTSD as well. But other than these symptoms there are some other symptoms that can be noticed. They are interpersonal problems (inability to connect or become close to others) , affect dysregulation (inability to regulate one’s emotions), negative self-concept (feelings of worthlessness and guilt), and interpersonal sensitivity (being easily hurt). Some of those who suffer from Complex PTSD are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder as well.

PTSD vs Complex PTSD

What is the Difference Between PTSD and Complex PTSD?

Definitions of PTSD and Complex PTSD:

PTSD: PTSD refers to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Complex PTSD: Complex PTSD refers to Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Cause of PTSD and Complex PTSD:

PTSD: PTSD results from a traumatic event such as war, accidents, sexual abuse.

Complex PTSD: Complex PTSD results from a sequence of traumatic events such as domestic violence, child abuse that goes on for a longer period, concentration camps, war experiences.

Symptoms of PTSD and Complex PTSD:

PTSD: The main symptoms are intrusions (recurrent thoughts, images of the traumatic event, nightmares, hallucinations), avoidance (staying away from the place where the accident occurred, isolation, lack of interest in activities), and hyperarousal (hyper vigilance, starting at the slightest incidents, sudden bursts of anger, and irritability).

Complex PTSD: The main symptoms are intrusions, avoidance and hyperarousal, interpersonal problems, affect dysregulation, negative self-concept, and interpersonal sensitivity.

Treatment of PTSD and Complex PTSD:

PTSD: PTSD should be treated with counseling and medication

Complex PTSD: Complex PTSD is treated with counseling and medication, but this usually takes a longer period in comparison to PTSD.

 

Image Courtesy:

1. “U.S. Army Medic” by Military Health System, U.S. Department of Defense  [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

2.”20081123120727-violencia-de-genero” by Concha García Hernández [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons