The Psychology of Trauma

Child Abuse

What is complex PTSD?

Complex PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) pertains to the long-term effects of chronic and severe child abuse. This is quite different from normal PTSD, which describes the effects of acute trauma in adulthood. In complex PTSD, there are long-term changes in attention, memory, consciousness, regulation of emotion, and personality characteristics, including unstable, distorted and negative self-perceptions, and problematic interpersonal relationships. These problems can result in the dissociation, self-mutilation, self-destructive behaviors, and emotional storms that are often found with survivors of severe childhood abuse. While chronic PTSD is not an official diagnosis, it is currently being evaluated for inclusion in future editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).


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