Complex PTSD treatment comes with specific challenges compared to those who have PTSD. PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop after a person experiences a traumatic event, while complex PTSD occurs after a series of traumatic events. This post will go over what complex PTSD is, the symptoms, and what treatment options prove effective.

man in therapy

What is Complex PTSD?

PTSD is usually related to a single event, while complex PTSD is related to a series of events or prolonged events. Some examples of complex PTSD are:

  • Childhood neglect
  • Physical or sexual abuse early in life
  • Witnessing domestic violence
  • Human trafficking
  • Being a refugee or living in a wartorn region

People with complex PTSD may experience difficulties with relationships. They tend to avoid others and may feel a lack of connection to others. 

Man sharing problems with psychologist

Symptoms of Complex PTSD

A person with complex PTSD may experience symptoms related to their condition that are similar to PTSD. These symptoms include:

  • Flashbacks and nightmares
  • Hyperarousal, or being in a state of high alert
  • Loss of trust in oneself or others
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Being startled by loud noises
  • Issues with emotional regulation
  • Detachment from the trauma

Aside from these symptoms, people with complex PTSD might also engage in behaviors related to their trauma. Examples of these behaviors include:

  • Abusing alcohol or drugs
  • Becoming “people-pleasers”
  • Lashing out at minor criticisms
  • Self-Harm

Engaging in these behaviors develops as a way to cope with the trauma and emotional pain. Once the trauma has passed, a person may rely on these behaviors whenever they feel emotional distress. A person with complex PTSD can learn to replace these behaviors with more positive and constructive ones.

man with closed fist

Treatment Options

Treatment for complex PTSD can vary, and not every method will work for every person. The most common option is talk therapy, in which the person sees a mental health specialist. The therapist will focus on stabilizing the person so they can address their feelings surrounding the trauma. The person will strengthen their connections with others and develop strategies to deal with flashbacks and anxiety.



Some medications for complex PTSD are the same ones used for depression. These medicines may be especially effective in combining with talk therapy. A medical professional can determine if medication is the way to go.



EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. EMDR helps people with complex PTSD process traumatic memories. When effective, this process helps to desensitize the person to the trauma to recall the memory without strong adverse reactions to it eventually. 

Despair businessman during psychotherapy


Complex PTSD treatment starts with understanding how it is different than PTSD. Complex PTSD is the result of a series of trauma rather than one event. Symptoms of complex PTSD can range from flashbacks or nightmares, difficulty sleeping, and emotional regulation issues. People with complex PTSD might choose to try out talk therapy, medication, or EMDR as a way to process the trauma and heal.

Family Strategies Counseling & Mediation is a therapy office serving the Chicagoland Area. We offer couples counseling and mental health services. Our therapists are skilled at working with those who have suffered traumatic experiences. Give our office a call at (708) 798-5433 or email us a info@Family-Strategy.com for appointment details.