How Complex PTSD Alters Behavior & Relationships - 5 Key Effects

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) is developed from repeated or prolonged experience of traumatic experiences. From what C-PTSD is to how it can affect us and what we can do... let us delve deeper into the topic.

Pavi Vyas
New Update
women mental health

Representative File Image.

You may have heard of post-traumatic stress disorder, but there's also something called Complex PTSD, which has similar symptoms but can have more far-reaching effects. While PTSD can involve flashbacks and nightmares, C-PTSD can have a lasting impact on our physical and emotional well-being, as well as our relationships. But how does it do this?


We are not here to scare you but rather to take you on a closer look at what complex PTSD is and how it might affect one's daily life to gain a better understanding of the disorder, its symptoms, and how to cope with it or someone you know who has it. We encourage you not to self-diagnose and instead get guidance from professionals. Experts recommend that you seek therapy as soon as possible if you are suffering from C-PTSD.

What Is C-PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a result of short-lived trauma experienced from accidents, injuries, or other traumatic events, causing flashbacks and nightmares. Meanwhile, complex PTSD (C-PTSD) is caused by repeated or prolonged traumatic events, often experienced since childhood. However, complex PTSD has long-lasting effects that go beyond nightmares and flashbacks, impacting personal well-being in chronic ways.

While C-PTSD induces hypervigilance, night terrors, dissociation disorders, and other symptoms, it also has a major effect on emotional regulation as it is frequently triggered by long-term trauma experiences such as wars or sexual violence. A person tends to suppress his or her emotions, which substantially deteriorates the patient's situation. Here are five ways that CPTSD might affect us:

5 Ways C-PTSD Can Affect Us

Disrupted Emotional Regulation:


Complex PTSD makes it more difficult to emotionally process a trauma since our bodies and minds reject experiencing negative emotions. With impaired emotional regulation, one experiences a strong emotional roller coaster that includes severe mood swings ranging from anger, sadness, numbness, crippling anxiety, violence, and more, depending on the circumstances. Everyday experiences might cause overwhelming emotions, making it difficult to control them.

Shattered Self-Image:

Negative experiences can cause feelings of shame, worthlessness, and self-blame since they often distort one's sense of self. This could end up in a patient feeling socially isolated, unable to trust people, and constantly feeling different from others.

Relationship Struggles:

C-PTSD causes emotional dysregulation and low self-perception, which can have a substantial impact on our relationships. Difficulty trusting others, fear of closeness, emotional outbursts, or pent-up emotions can cause distance and tension in many relationships as one attempts to push their spouse away frequently.

Living on Edge:


C-PTSD can cause a person to become hypervigilant, continuously scanning for danger and thinking that their experience will occur again. This fear not only causes extreme anxiety or insomnia but also causes the feeling of always being on edge. Even in a safe setting, this makes it hard to relax and enjoy yourself because it appears to be frightening.

Losing Sense of Control:

Trauma can leave us feeling helpless and powerless in almost every situation, which makes it hard for a person to make decisions, avoid situations for fear of new triggers and hurts, and struggle to regain control of one's life because C-PTSD has an enormous effect on self-confidence. C-PTSD might make us feel like pawns in a game that we don't understand.

Insights from Dr. Devika Ghokhale

While the symptoms of C-PTSD appear to be severe, knowing that it is easily curable is reassuring. Dr. Devika Ghokhale, a practicing clinical psychologist at the Nagpur Rotary Club, shared with SheThePeople, "While symptoms and their severity in CPTSD patients vary, the path to recovery can be highly individualized, contingent upon each case's unique circumstances and the intensity of their trauma experience and its repercussions."

She further advised,  "Every patient who is diagnosed with CPTSD must foremost rush to seek therapy as soon as they can. The most important consideration in curing CPTSD is to seek professional help and note how are you processing your emotions rather than relying on self-treatments as the severity of this particular disorder cannot be handled by a layman but might only worsen the situation." 

Discussing treatment approaches for complex PTSD, Dr. Gokhale detailed how professionals employ CBT, various therapies, self-help groups, and support networks, tailoring interventions to address patients' behavioral and cognitive patterns.

While stressing on seeking therapy and and professional intervention, Dr. Gokhale noted that managing CPTSD symptoms independently, especially in the early stages, can be daunting. She clarified that self-care strategies  are typically recommended after undergoing certain treatments, helping patients in symptom management and building a renewed sense of self.

Dr. Gokhale also offered insights into self-help tips for C-PTSD, "While many people would suggest different ways to help a CPTSD patient on their own, again these tricks and techniques are very subjective as meditation helps for many but to some patients, it can be triggering taking them back to their trauma flashbacks. Similarly, journalling is a healthy habit to vent out, but many patients struggle to even know where to start writing from, while others feel they go through the experiences and the negative thoughts all over again as they write it down." 

Moreover, she also talked about the complexities of seeking support from loved ones, "Talking to dear ones about experiences or negative thoughts might seem like a comfortable option to many, but not always people are good at listening to trauma and processing it, patients with CPTSD are sensitive and might be triggered by anyone's reactions or words, making situations worse."

Finally, Dr. Gokhale shared additional self-care practices beyond therapy, such as engaging in regular breathing exercises, pursuing hobbies, and maintaining self-awareness, while also advocating for solidarity with fellow trauma survivors to combat feelings of isolation. She also hinted  at the prospects of recovery for most C-PTSD patients post-professional intervention, stressing the crucial role of therapy in addressing severe mental health conditions.


Complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder C-PTSD Emotions suppression