There are many different types of Trauma.
I would like to emphasise that Trauma is subjective - your experience is yours and no one else’s to define or interpret. All kind of factors contribute to a person's experience of trauma which explains why the same “kind” of experience affects people differently. Trauma can result from many experiences including violence, assault, hostility, severe or acute illness, bereavement as well as other things which can commonly be overlooked including surgery, a relationship breakup, another person's suicide or a life-changing event.
There are two distinctions which can help in defining trauma. "Simple" Trauma or PTSD tends to result from one traumatic incident (Read more about incident trauma/PTSD treatment here), whereas Complex Trauma or C-PTSD is where we have experienced multiple, repeated, on-going traumatic personal attacks on us and where we know the perpetrator(s) - such as childhood abuse or domestic violence. It is so often the case that this kind of trauma is kept a secret because the victim is not allowed to talk about it or feels shameful. This means without therapy we do not adequately process what we've been through.
The reason that ongoing trauma is called "Complex" trauma is that, as you will know if you've been through it, there are many aspects to it. A "complex" system of coping and learning develops around the persistent and prolonged dangers and threats that exist in an environment (often domestically). A neurological adaptation occurs within our human survival mechanisms that means survivors can struggle in many aspects of their lives.
This kind of trauma can develop from:
Childhood abuse, neglect abandonment or mistreatment
Repeatedly experiencing violence or witnessing it,
Being persistently oppressed, used or manipulated.
You're more likely to develop complex trauma if it was from an early age, it lasted a long time, you were harmed by someone who was meant to care for you (eg parent) and/or there was no escape.
Symptoms of Complex Trauma
Symptoms vary but will usually include:
Chronic and excessive guilt and shame
Difficulty keeping your emotions in check
Feeling hostility and suspicion
Trouble concentrating and feeling comfortable
Easily "zoning out" and "dissociating" in situations
Cutting of from friends and family
Using coping mechanisms like drugs, alcohol and self-harm
Thankfully through much clinical research and advances in neuroscience there is a lot that Psychotherapy can offer in helping you heal from this kind of "long", systemic trauma. An understanding, comprehensive and above all compassionate therapeutic approach is needed here where we work on the trauma from different "angles" to not just help you understand and your brain to properly process what you've been through but to live without the consistent fear so that you can experience life how you would like to. Work is not easy or quick but it is both relieving and highly rewarding. Trauma is highly idiosyncratic - your experience is different to anyone else's even if you share some aspects - so your treatment needs to be tailored to you. Different therapeutic approaches work for different people although research shows some tend to work better than others including Trauma-Focussed CBT and EMDR. However as with all therapy the most important factor in your treatment is that you feel comfortable with the therapist who helps you which is why I will always suggest we discuss how you feel working together early on in your therapy and that we check at regular intervals to see if we are helping you. If we are not I can help you find a different therapist or avenue.
I am privileged to have worked with people suffering from Complex Trauma for many years now and am passionate about helping people get back their sense of self and reclaim their lives. What's more I know with work this can be achieved! If you are suffering now give me a call and we can discuss what might work best for you.