What Is the Difference Between PTSD and CPTSD?

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January 28, 2021

Whether you’re experiencing CPTSD vs PTSD, you’re not alone. About 3.6% of adult Americans have PTSD. In addition to this, 7.8 million Americans will experience PTSD at some point. 

Are you wondering what the difference between CPTSD and PTSD is? In this article, dive into the symptoms, causes, and treatment options. Read on to discover more about these disorders in order to get treatment today. 

What Is PTSD?

PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder), is when you develop this condition after you witness or experience a traumatic event. It can cause fear, horror, and helplessness. When PTSD hits, and how long it lasts depends on the severity of the condition. 

Symptoms can include: 

  • Negative mood
  • Avoiding places, thoughts, people, etc 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Isolation from family

PTSD Causes: 

  • Accidents
  • War
  • Natural disasters
  • Death of a loved one
  • Physical or sexual assault


PTSD treatment normally includes trauma-focused therapies. During this, you’ll need to process and recall different traumatic events during therapy. 

One example is what’s known as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). This is where you’ll describe the traumatic memories, and your therapist will have you do a series of eye movements that’ll change how your brain processes the traumatic memories. 

Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Psychotherapy is a common treatment plan for those with PTSD. One example is what’s known as prolonged exposure therapy.

This is where you relive the traumatic event. It’s beneficial since it’ll help you confront any fear you experience toward it. This will make you more comfortable with situations that cause anxiety or fear. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This teaches you to recognize your thoughts that lead to your troubled emotions. This can include negative behavior and feelings as well. 

Not treating PTSD or CPTSD can lead to complications including them affecting your health, different activities, relationships, and your job. It can cause other health problems as well.

Complications can include: 

  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts

Other Coping Methods

Along with therapy, you might want to include different coping strategies that can help, such as meditation. You can also look into mindfulness treatment options such as mindfulness-based stress reduction. 

This is where you do mindfulness meditation to train you to focus on your breath instead of negative thoughts. You can also check out mantra repetition practice.

This is where you repeat a sacred word or phrase. It’s effective against hyperarousal, anger, or being on guard.

It can help with depression and anxiety as well. If you’re experiencing CPTSD, speak with your therapist or counselor to see if meditation might be right for you. 

PTSD Outlook

While the symptoms of PTSD don’t go away completely, treatment can help manage your symptoms. This can lead to fewer intense symptoms. Early intervention for those who experience trauma can reduce the symptoms of PTSD, or prevent it from occurring. 

What Is CPTSD? 

CPTSD is short for complex post-traumatic stress disorder. Complex PTSD is considered a more complex condition than PTSD. 

This is when the trauma is over a period of time without being able to escape. While the symptoms can be the same as PTSD, you might be experiencing additional symptoms as well. 

CPTSD Symptoms can include: 

  • A negative perception of self
  • Difficulty in managing interpersonal relationships
  • Affected regulation
  • Shame
  • Under a constant threat
  • Hostile
  • Feeling different
  • Socially withdrawn

CPTSD Causes:

  • Trauma
  • Trauma caused by a caregiver or parent
  • In contact with the person who caused the trauma
  • Traumatic events at a young age
  • Emotional abuse
  • Neglect
  • Physical or sexual abuse


Treatment varies between CPTSD and PTSD. While CPTSD can include all of the treatment standards of PTSD treatment, it also adds in skill-building as well. 

These can include helping feelings of guilt and worthlessness, managing emotions, and creating supportive relationships. If you experienced childhood trauma, you might have a hard time trusting people. 

CPTSD treatment can take longer than traditional PTSD treatment. It’s harder to treat since you might develop habits that protect you.

Another common treatment option for CPTSD is psychotherapy. You might speak with a therapist in a group or alone. It’s about replacing your negative thought patterns with more positive and healthy thoughts. 

Medications might be given depending on the diagnosis. Some medications can include Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil. You might only need to take them for the short term instead of the long-term. 

Who Develops CPTSD? 

If you’ve experienced ongoing child abuse, sexual abuse, war, domestic violence, non-consensual sex, or police violence, you’re more likely to develop CPTSD. While experiencing these doesn’t mean that you developed CPTSD, it’s a common condition, and you’re not alone. 

Having CPTSD

It’s a lifelong condition that can take time to treat. A mixture of medication and therapy can help you control your symptoms and lead a better quality of life.

Besides seeking treatment, you can also join a support group as well. This is a great way to connect with others who experienced similar situations. 

Understanding the Differences

PTSD is a traumatic event from a single occurrence, where CPTSD can be over a longer period of time. While CPTSD is new, many researchers and therapists think that CPTSD should have its own diagnosis. 

Understanding the Difference Between CPTSD vs PTSD

Now that you’ve explored the difference between CPTSD vs PTSD, you should have a better idea of what you might be suffering from. Are you ready to get treatment today? 

You don’t deserve to suffer. You deserve a happy and healthy future. Contact us today, and we’ll come up with an action plan that meets your needs. 

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