Wednesday, June 29, 2016

What is CPTSD?

Many of us are dealing with not just PTSD, but more specifically, Complex PTSD, or CPTSD. People insidiously on the autism and/or NLD spectrums are prone to developing CPTSD, though CPTSD can affect anyone.

What people who are highly sensitive and/or with late diagnosed ASCs have gone through, all those years being unrecognized, may cause all these layers to develop. Unfortunately this often masks the core autistic condition, as we know, and so it can get missed, when a "comorbid" mental health condition upstages it.

CPTSD is common in autistic people who didn't get help and have been through prolonged exposure to trauma, abuse and hardship. It's important to note that not being identified correctly, as someone who diverges from being neurologically typical in developing, can create trauma in itself. In the case of somebody on the autistic spectrum, but unrecognized as being, trauma can indeed occur from the pressure to 'perform' as normal, using a lot of energy and ways unnatural to one's way of being, and some of the time making mistakes in this, which results in being judged and treated badly. This beats a person down after awhile, causing low self esteem and often an inherent feeling that they are a broken and/or bad person in some way. 

It's complex, and may have features of a few different mental health issues such as anxiety and/or panic, rapid cycling bipolar, borderline personality-like mood/social affects/poor coping reactions, major depression, dysthymia, dissociation, agoraphobia, obsessive compulsive, eating disorder/body image issues,  substance misuse and addiction issues, and even some more superficially presenting features of other cluster B and C personality disorders. 

This is especially so in earlier stages/higher severities of the CPTSD, so when a person has not worked on themselves much, or is actively being very stressed, thus being re-triggered, etc. It's important to note the "features of" (due to CPTSD) is different than actually have the full on disorder. 

Sadly, there is a current lack of compassion and awareness of CPTSD (especially in autistic people) in the mental health systems. Instead there is judgement, which not only makes it really hard for people to recover, but makes the trauma worse in the way of an ugly and vicious loop. Sadly, this can eventually result in tragic consequences; such as addictions and other poor coping that does severe damage, the development of chronic  and debilitating physical illness, and sometimes even suicide or accidental overdoses. Clinicians, and society, badly need to be more complex trauma aware, and compassionate too. 

Clinicians need to become more skilled at identifying autism in these cases, and helping those with CPTSD. Many are out there in this position, and only a fraction of them are identified. An even smaller fraction of them will be able to receive adequate service/help.

What can we do? Only what we can: Keep speaking out about it, but also balance with self care and recovery. If we can't rely on outside help to help us, we can still find some kind of faith, work through it using outlets like art, journalling, accepting it/turning it around/channeling it too. We can support each other in this. 

-Rosie G. 

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