June 28, 2021

Complex Trauma- What is It?

Complex PTSD

Complex Trauma can also be referred to Complex PTSD (C-PTSD), relational trauma or developmental trauma.

Complex PTSD is a result of exposure to repeated or prolonged instances or multiple forms of interpersonal trauma. Escape is not possible due to the age of the victim, psychological or financial constraints or social control.

Some examples includes; all forms of child abuse, neglect, adverse childhood experiences, community violence – domestic and family violence, civil unrest, war trauma or genocide, cultural dislocation, sexual exploitation and organized violence.

The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) developed treatment guidelines for Complex PTSD. The definition includes symptoms of PTSD in conjunction with five domains:

(a) emotion regulation difficulties,

(b) disturbances in relational capacities,

(c) alterations in attention and consciousness (e.g., dissociation),

(d) adversely affected belief systems, and

(e) somatic distress or disorganization.

Developmental Trauma

EMDR Therapy for Childhood TraumaAnother form of C-PTSD is called Developmental Trauma. This type of trauma is supported by Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study.

Developmental trauma impacts children meeting their developmental milestones. This impact effects


The ISTSS Expert Consensus Treatment Guidelines For Complex PTSD in Adults- https://www.istss.org/ISTSS_Main/media/Documents/ISTSS-Expert-Concesnsus-Guidelines-for-Complex-PTSD-Updated-060315.pdf

ICD-11 Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in the United States: A Population-Based Study- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31800131/