You’ve likely already heard of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – an anxiety disorder that some people develop after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event.
You may not, however, be familiar with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD). CPTSD comes about as a result of repeated trauma over a longer period of time, rather than one single traumatic event.
The symptoms are mostly like those of PTSD, but with additional symptoms not found in the regular condition.
Standard PTSD Symptoms
- Reliving the traumatic experience (through nightmares, thoughts, or flashbacks)
- Avoiding certain activities or thoughts that remind you of the event
- Changes in thoughts and actions, such as feeling distrustful or losing hope about the future
- Hyperarousal, which means being on high alert or jittery. This also results in difficulty sleeping or focusing.
- Being unable to regulate your emotions or control your feeling, resulting in things like explosive anger
- Changes in thinking and consciousness. For example, dissociative feelings or getting about the traumatic event
- Negative thoughts about yourself, such as intense guilt or shame
- Conflicts in your personal or professional relationships
- Developing a distorted perception of your abuser, for instance developing a preoccupation with getting “revenge”
- Loss faith in beliefs or values you once held
Causes of CPTSD
Some research suggests that trauma may have a lasting effect on the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the prefrontal cortex. These are parts of the brain that have a major role in the function of memory and the way a person responds to stress.
This leads to speculation that long-term trauma, inflicted over months or even years, may wear a person down and lead to CPTSD.
Examples of long-term trauma include, but are not limited to:
- Ongoing physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
- Living in an area affected by war
- Ongoing childhood abuse or neglect
Risk factors for developing CPTSD include some of the following:
- Personal or family history of other mental health conditions
- Inherited personality traits (your temperament)
- The way your brain regulates hormones in response to stress
CPTSD will deeply affect a person’s life. It can be unforgiving, but no matter what there is hope for relief from the symptoms. Hope can come in many forms: treatments both old and new like antidepressant medications, psychotherapy sessions, ketamine infusions, or general lifestyle changes like social support or supporting your physical health.
Ketamine for CPTSD Treatment
Ketamine has been used for decades as an anesthetic and pain reliever, but in recent years is being used as a powerful and rapid-acting treatment for mental health conditions such as CPTSD. Research seems to indicate that ketamine plays a role in the treatment of mood disorders through its interaction with the neurotransmitter known as glutamate. Glutamate is a powerful neurotransmitter that mediates the body’s response to stress and traumatic memories.