Complex PTSD is one of the more overlooked effects of prolonged traumatic experience, such as sexual abuse or workplace bullying. But as more attention is paid to these kinds of experiences and exactly what they can do to victims, we are beginning to understand more about this condition. And this increased understanding should, in turn, give hope to the hundreds of people who find themselves subjected to workplace bullying every day.
Standard PTSD is a well-known and well-documented condition that generally results from a single traumatic experience. A police officer involved in a shooting or a soldier returning from war may suffer from a range of psychological symptoms that make transitioning back into normal society extremely difficult. Psychologists have identified the main symptoms of PTSD and have a targeted range of treatments to help victims recover.
Until very recently, less has been known about complex PTSD, but we are beginning to pinpoint the issues and that opens the door to the potential for successful treatment. Unlike the more traditional form of PTSD, this is a condition brought on by ongoing trauma, including being held prisoner, suffering long-term domestic abuse, and being the victim of workplace bullying. Because these are traumatic experiences that go on over long periods of time, the psychological effects they cause can be deep-seated and severely damaging.
Because the victims of C-PTSD do exhibit some of the same symptoms seen in standard PTSD, it can easily be misdiagnosed. But C-PTSD sufferers also exhibit some other symptoms that are more specific to the condition. These can include difficulties regulating emotions such as prolonged sadness, inability to control your temper or inhibited temper, and even suicidal thoughts.
Other symptoms of complex PTSD include either forgetting or consistently reliving traumatic events; feeling detached from your own body and thoughts; overwhelming feelings of helplessness, shame, guilt or stigma; a distorted perception of the perpetrator which manifests in attributing complete power to him/her or becoming preoccupied with revenge; and an inability to properly relate to others that leads to either isolation and distrust or an all-encompassing need for a savior.
Again, because C-PTSD symptoms can often mimic those of PTSD, it is easily misdiagnosed, but the longer an individual goes without a proper diagnosis, the more the effects will build. The key to successful treatment is identifying and acknowledging the symptoms as soon as possible. Once that is done, a treatment program can begin.
The general course of treatment involves a three-prong approach: creating safety, allowing for mourning and promoting healthy re-connection with everyday life. Only by going through all of these stages can a victim of long-term abuse such as workplace bullying begin to take his/her life back. Of course it is also imperative that the victim of complex PTSD has a strong support system in order to produce that feeling of safety that is so crucial.
Workplace bullying is so much more than just making your job more difficult. It is a very real form of abuse that can undermine a person’s entire sense of well-being. By understanding the realities of C-PTSD, we can begin to break through the wall that surrounds workplace bullying and begin to let victims know that they are not alone and healing is very much possible.