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What Are the Different Complex PTSD Treatments?

By S. Berger
Updated May 17, 2024
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Complex post traumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD or C-PTSD) is a mental disorder resulting from psychological trauma that lasts for long periods of time, from weeks to years. Severe symptoms can result from the exposure to these prolonged experiences, such as those that may occur in prisoner of war camps or long-term physical or sexual abuse. This form of the disorder may present differently than PTSD caused by short-term experiences, and therefore complex PTSD treatments have evolved that address these differences.

Several types of complex PTSD treatments exist that can help victims of this disorder. Treating c-PTSD differs from treating standard PTSD in that the treatments for the complex version of this condition in that it attempts to improve functioning before dealing with other symptoms. Generally, the various c-PTSD treatments share this focus.

One method often used to treat complex PTSD is known as complex trauma treatment. Like other complex PTSD treatments, this type has multiple components. Some of the crucial elements of this form of therapy include helping individuals to look after their own safety, regulate their emotions, express positive feelings, and allow them to express trust other individuals.

Cognitive therapy is another type of treatment sometimes used with this mental disorder. The main purpose of this type of treatment is to identify problematic behaviors and thoughts that impair functioning, and learn strategies for correcting them. Many times, this involves learning logical ways of rejecting negative self-perceptions and revising memory disruptions that can come about from trauma. Cognitive therapy is one of the more widely used complex PTSD treatments as it has fairly extensive experimental backing.

Exposure therapy is another type of the available complex PTSD treatments. With this type of therapy, either imagination-based exercises or real-life situations are used to help individuals to confront their traumatic memories and over come them. Often, this therapy can help reduce stress responses to otherwise harmless stimuli that trigger painful or traumatic memories.

Other complex PTSD treatments may incorporate elements of different therapies, in a strategy known as adding components. This perspective of therapy may provide individuals with both stress reduction and cognitive therapy techniques. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing may also be provided. This therapy involves the use of certain eye movements while remembering traumatic events, and some research studies have found support for its effectiveness. In most cases, complex PTSD cases require an individualized approach to identify areas of need and treatment possibilities.

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