A private London clinic integrating psychiatry and psychology

Managing cPTSD and PTSD

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition which may develop after experiencing traumatic events. The condition was first recognised in war veterans. It has had different names in the past, such as 'shell shock', but it's not only diagnosed in soldiers. A wide range of circumstances can cause PTSD if you experience or witness an extremely traumatic situation where there was a threat to your safety or the safety of another person. Some examples include, but are not limited to, being in a serious accident, physical or sexual assault, childhood or domestic abuse, serious health concerns, and pregnancy and birth trauma.

What Are the Common Symptoms of PTSD?

People often relive aspects of what happened to them. This can include:

  • vivid flashbacks (feeling like the trauma is happening again right now)
  • intrusive thoughts, images, or physical sensations
  • nightmares

Sufferers may experience feelings of alertness or being on edge, which may include:

  • intense distress at real or symbolic reminders of the trauma
  • being easily upset or angry
  • extreme alertness, also sometimes called 'hypervigilance'
  • disturbed sleep or a lack of sleep
  • irritability or aggressive behaviour
  • finding it hard to concentrate – including on simple or everyday tasks
  • being jumpy or easily startled
  • other symptoms of anxiety such as dizziness and a racing heart
  • physical sensations such as pain, nausea or trembling

Having PTSD may lead to avoiding feelings or memories, including:

  • feeling like you have to keep busy
  • avoiding anything that reminds you of the trauma
  • being unable to remember details of what happened
  • feeling emotionally numb or cut off from your feelings
  • feeling physically numb or detached from your body
  • being unable to express affection
  • doing things that could be self-destructive or reckless
  • using alcohol or drugs to avoid memories.

If you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD, you might also find that you have difficulty with some everyday aspects of your life, such as:

  • looking after yourself
  • holding down a job
  • maintaining friendships or relationships
  • remembering things and making decisions
  • your sex drive
  • coping with change
  • simply enjoying your leisure time.

It is also very natural to experience a change in the way you may view yourself, other people, or the world in general, such as:

  • strong feelings of responsibility
  • self-blame
  • shame
  • guilt
  • worthlessness
  • powerlessness or lack of control
  • a persistent feeling that you are not safe

What is Complex PTSD?

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD, sometimes abbreviated to c-PTSD or CPTSD) is a condition that may develop if you are repeatedly exposed to trauma or experience trauma over a long period of time. This may include childhood abuse or neglect, domestic violence, sexual abuse, torture, sex trafficking, slavery or being involved in war. C-PTSD is more likely to develop if you experienced trauma at a young age, you were harmed by someone you trusted, and you were unable to escape the trauma. You experience some symptoms of PTSD along with some additional symptoms, such as:

  • difficulty controlling your emotions
  • feeling very angry or distrustful towards the world
  • constant feelings of emptiness or hopelessness
  • feeling as if you are permanently damaged or worthless
  • feeling as if you are completely different to other people
  • feeling like nobody can understand what happened to you
  • avoiding friendships and relationships, or finding them very difficult
  • often experiencing dissociative symptoms such as depersonalisation or derealisation
  • physical symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, chest pains and stomach aches
  • regular suicidal feelings

How is PTSD/C-PTSD treated?

PTSD and C-PTSD can be successfully treated, even when it develops many years after the traumatic event(s).

Any treatment depends on the severity of symptoms and how soon they occur after the traumatic event(s).

Any of the following treatment options may be recommended:

  • watchful waiting – monitoring your symptoms to see whether they improve or get worse without treatment
  • antidepressants – such as paroxetine or mirtazapine
  • psychological therapies – such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), or narrative exposure therapy (NET)

Outcomes

There are three main goals for PTSD treatment:

  1. Ease the PTSD symptoms, making them less frequent and less intrusive or impactful on your life.
  2. Teach you how to manage the symptoms when they do occur.
  3. Restore a positive sense of self and self-esteem.

It is possible to be successfully treated from the effect of trauma, so it’s never too late to seek help.

Staff

We have an expert team of Consultant Psychiatrists and both Counselling and Clinical Psychologists who are well versed in helping manage PTSD and cPTSD.

DrIlaria Bonoldi

DrSoumitra Burman-Roy

DrRuth Cairns

DrRobert Harland

DrRoger Howells

DrMuj Husain

DrIsabel McMullen

DrSharon Chambers

DrMaria Jalmbrant

DrGabrielle Samson

DrJennifer O'Connell

DrMatthew Green

DrFlorian Ruths

Contact and Appointments

If you are seeking an appointment with a psychiatrist, you should discuss this first with your GP to obtain a referral. Referrals are also accepted from clinical psychologists and counsellors.

Once you have your referral, please do contact us via our Enquiry Form and one of our team will be in touch without delay.

Overseas referrals are warmly welcomed. We do also see individuals without a family doctor (GP), and we can help you find a private or NHS family doctor.