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What Is the Difference Between PTSD and Complex PTSD?

If you are suffering from PTSD and reading up about your symptoms online, you may have also found references to Complex PTSD. Do you want to know the difference between the two, and find out the best treatment options?

If so, you are not alone. This is a commonly asked question within the PTSD community.


The symptoms of both PTSD and Complex PTSD are the same. They are characterized by symptoms stemming from a traumatic event, or series of traumatic events.

You can read about all the symptoms of PTSD and learn to understand what it is at the following link:

In the United States, PTSD and Complex PTSD are not separate diagnoses. Although, this is not the case in the rest of the world.

According to Mind UK,

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD, sometimes abbreviated to c-PTSD or CPTSD) is a condition where 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.

So, be aware that your diagnosis will differ based on where you are in the world. In the US you will automatically be diagnosed with PTSD, even if you have these additional symptoms. However if you are in the UK or elsewhere your diagnosis will be different.


The major difference between PTSD and Complex PTSD is that PTSD can be caused by a single event, while with Complex PTSD, the sufferer has gone through repeated traumas.

Often, Complex PTSD will stem from such things as childhood trauma, where there is a pattern of traumatic events happening over time. This can also occur when you have been in an abusive relationship, in an active-duty military situation, if you are a refugee, or in any other circumstance where you have felt like you are in constant danger over a period of time.

Since someone with Complex PTSD (like me) has gone through multiple traumas, it can take longer to heal than if you have PTSD from a single traumatic event.


The treatment for both PTSD and Complex PTSD will be similar. Usually, this will consist of a combination of talk therapy, medication and EMDR.

Working with a mental health provider will help you to be able to reprocess your trauma and feel less triggered. You will also be able to learn coping skills for panic attacks, intrusive thoughts and flashbacks.

If you have trouble sleeping, you may receive a medication for that as well.

EMDR is one of the most effective treatments for PTSD, as it can help you reprocess the trauma that you have been through to make it less triggering on a day to day basis. Read more here:

In addition to going to therapy, you can incorporate lifestyle factors that will help you cope with PTSD as well. Some things that are helpful in creating a more peaceful lifestyle are:

  • Yoga

  • Meditation

  • Mindfulness

  • Self-Care

  • Journaling

  • Getting proper sleep

Once you get treatment for PTSD, you are able to live a happier and more full life. This has been true for me, and for many others as well.

If you need help finding a therapist, here are some tips.


Although PTSD and Complex PTSD are separate diagnoses in most of the world, you will still receive the same type of treatment with either type. So, don't worry if you don't know if you have PTSD or cPTSD. You will still be able to work with a mental health professional to treat your symptoms in a similar way.

In addition to getting professional treatment, taking time out of your day to do something good for yourself is so helpful. Making time for self-care is crucial when you have a mental health condition.

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