Exit and Support Network

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Complex Post-traumatic Stress Disorder* refers to those who have suffered prolonged, repeated trauma and abuse. This is often endured by those who have been in any totalistic, abusive, mind-manipulating group. Trauma is known to disrupt the chemistry in the brain.

A history of subjection to totalitarian control over a prolonged period (months to years) can result in CPTSD. Examples include hostages, prisoners of war, concentration-camp survivors, and survivors of some religious cults. Examples also include those subjected to totalitarian systems in sexual and domestic life, including survivors of domestic battering, childhood physical or sexual abuse, and organized sexual exploitation.

If you are suffering from CPTSD, don't delay in seeking qualified, competent help.

[NOTE: Not every survivor will exhibit all of the following symptoms.]

Alterations in emotional regulation, including:

  • Persistent dysphoria (sadness)
  • Chronic suicidal preoccupation
  • Self-injury
  • Explosive anger or extremely inhibited anger (may alternate)
  • Compulsive or extremely inhibited sexuality (may alternate)

Alterations in consciousness, including:

  • Amnesia or hypermnesia for traumatic events
  • Transient dissociative episodes
  • Depersonalization/derealization (feeling detached from one's mental processes or body)
  • Reliving experiences, either in the form of intrusive post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms or in the form of ruminative preoccupation)

Alterations in self-perception, including:

  • Sense of helplessness or paralysis of initiative
  • Shame, guilt, and self-blame
  • Sense of defilement or stigma
  • Sense of complete difference from others (may include sense of specialness)
  • Utter aloneness, belief no other person can understand, or nonhuman identity)

Alterations in perception of perpetrator, including:

  • Preoccupation with relationship with perpetrator (includes preoccupation with revenge)
  • Unrealistic attribution of total power to perpetrator (caution: victim's assessment of power realities may be more realistic than clinician's)
  • Idealization or paradoxical gratitude
  • Sense of special or supernatural relationship
  • Acceptance of belief system or rationalizations of perpetrator

Alterations in relations with others, including:

  • Isolation and withdrawal
  • Disruption in intimate relationships
  • Repeated search for rescuer (may alternate with isolation and withdrawal)
  • Persistent distrust
  • Repeated failures of self-protection

Alterations in systems of meaning:

  • Loss of sustaining faith
  • Sense of hopelessness and despair

Recovery from Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder:

  • Establishing safety and empowerment of the survivor
  • Remembrance and mourning
  • Reconnection
  • Commonality (a feeling of connection to others)

~Excerpted from Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman, M.D.

*Also referred to as complex post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Comment: Involvement in mind manipulating groups can also cause "anxiety in re-socialization." Diagnosis depends on the individual symptoms that appear, not the severity of the experience. Competent counseling by someone who understands trauma and thought reform methods and their after effects is recommended when the survivor is having difficulty in recovering. See our Referrals.

Recommended book for further study: Recovery from Cults (Help For Victims of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse) edited by Michael D. Langone

Recommended Articles:

Where Do the Feelings Go?

Common Emotional Difficulties After Leaving a High Demand Group

Dialectical Behavior Therapy: If you are struggling with any kind of destructive behavior; i. e., suicidal behavior, or self-injury, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) has been found to be helpful. This kind of therapy helps survivors to use tools to control moods that can go out of control very rapidly. As one child survivor (who underwent DBT) told us: "When you feel powerless, you feel hopeless. Once you realize that you have the power to change things in your life, you will not feel you have to wait for people to be good to you. You have the power to choose a better option."

EMDR: A number of survivors who have suffered trauma say they have been helped with a new procedure called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Notice: Therapists trained in complex trauma-related conditions (including mind control trauma) have told us that if the survivor is dissociative (DID), this therapy may cause a flooding of memories. Please discuss this, and any other questions, with a qualified therapist. [offsite links]

Information & Resources on Trauma, Dissociation, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [offsite link]

Psychiatric Service Dogs: These dogs are specifically trained to assist people with PTSD, anxiety disorders, panic disorders, phobias, severe depression, etc. [offsite link]

Prayers For Freedom From Spiritual Strongholds
Very effective in gaining liberation from strongholds and oppressions due to involvement in any harmful, abusive group or occult practices; includes moral issues.


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