Understanding PTSD and C-PTSD

PTSD in soldiers of war

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), once called shell shock or battle fatigue syndrome, is a serious condition that can develop after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened. PTSD is a lasting consequence of traumatic ordeals that cause intense fear, helplessness, or horror, such as a sexual or physical assault, the unexpected death of a loved one, an accident, war, or natural disaster. Families of victims can also develop PTSD, as can emergency personnel and rescue workers.

PTSD from Natural Disasters

What is C-PTSD?

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) is a condition that results from chronic or long-term exposure to emotional trauma over which a victim has little or no control and from which there is little or no hope of escape, such as in cases of: entrapment or kidnapping. slavery or enforced labor.

C-PTSD – prisoners of war can develop C-PTSD

PTSD doesn’t necessarily develop into C-PTSD. You have to look at the causes of the both disorders. 

PTSD and C-PTSD are similar disorders. C-PTSD is a sort of PTSD but with additional symptoms. The causes however, are some what different. PTSD can be caused by a traumatic event, which can happen within a day or short term exposure to extreme stressful events. for example, a threatened life experience, unexpected death of a loved one or natural disaster etc. C-PTSD is caused by not only one event as PTSD. For example, ongoing trauma such as being held captive, prolonged childhood sexual or physical abuse in the household that might be present for number of years. It has to be ongoing not based on one event to be considered C-PTSD.

Below I have a couple examples that you may find helpful.

In my opinion a good example of C-PTSD would be to look at kidnapped victims (prisoners) of war. A soldier returning from intense battle may be likely to show PTSD symptoms, but a kidnapped prisoner of war who was held for several years may show additional symptoms of C-PTSD.

C-PTSD results more from chronic repetitive stress from which there is little chance of escape. PTSD can result from single events, or short term exposure to extreme stress or trauma.

Similarly, a child who witnesses a friend’s death in an accident may exhibit some symptoms of PTSD but a child who grows up in an abusive home may exhibit the additional C-PTSD.


Any questions queries and concerns about mental illness please feel free to comment below or send me an email. mhcoachingonline@gmail.com

Published by Coach Amy

BS, Psychology graduate, Certified NLP Master Practitioner, Certified Life Coach, training in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) Certified Confidence Life Coach,

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