Complex PTSD vs PTSD and wanting advice about my experience

M

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#1
A very brief resume of what has lead to me thinking I may have complex PTSD.

My wife (now ex) developed an acute psychosis out of the blue in 2011 - her age was early 50s (I posted here at the time). She was hospitalised for a month or so. Truly awful to see her terror through it all (and I was terrified too). Unfortunately I was the focus of her paranoias. Me + conspirators. During the acute incident I was threatened with a weapon that you only see in movies (it felt like I was in one). Even more unfortunately, she refused me any communication with her health care team. It was so isolating. She was back to a functional life in months, but never seemed to get over me. The best I got was that I was no longer a threat' and if I was not `guilty' why did I not help her against `conspirators'.

The next 3 years I did my best to look after her (she never saw me as a carer). She did a few things with me, like going away for a few days, but there was little joy. Then one day she said she was leaving in 1/2 hour and that she'd instigated divorce proceedings. I've been living on my own since 2015 and a year later fell into deep depression from which I still suffer. A lot of losses over a very short period - partner , house, children (who were at the age for leaving home and have indeed left now), retirement age (it should have been).

Getting to the point, in the decade or so prior to 2011, she seemed to fall out of love with me to a position of increasing contempt, criticism, blame (always 100% my fault). It was kept away from the children all the time (she was dedicated to them - can't fault here there). We used to once enjoy having discussions about controversial topics, but it changed and all to often she'd get very angry with me. Sometimes she was raging from close up in my face. Occasionally, her anger would raise me to anger, but then she got angrier still. If ever she cried, I felt for her, and wanted to console her, but if ever I cried, she hated my tears. I used to say to my best friend that my wife has a special `madness' for me - with everyone else she seemed fine. She also said to me that everyone thinks I'm so so nice, but they don't know what I'm really like to live with. This behavior bewildered me totally. I went to a marriage guidance counsellor, and then asked my wife to come (who said it would be a waste of time - she was right about that). All this time, whenever incidents happened, I felt frozen. It was scary to be on the end of her tongue lashing. Sometimes, I tried to go to another part of the house to escape. There were some what I now see as warning symptoms of impending psychosis - there was a valuable document that she'd mislaid/lost but she was certain that I'd taken - 100% certain. My behaviour she said when I was cross-examined by her was that of a guilty person. There was no way I could prove my innocence.

And here is the spooky thing, her mum developed a psychosis at the same age, and it had a very similar pattern to my ex-wife's.

Overall, I even began to doubt my own sanity. Was I perhaps an awful person and didn't even know it? I feel so damaged by it all, and though I've been away from her for nearly 4 years, I'm suffering for it, suffering so much. I have these feelings that I should be so angry at what she's done to me, but then I know it wasn't her fault (she had a bad relationship with her mum). Everything (readings/advice) tells me this is not a healthy place to be.

Complex PTSD does seem to be a diagnosis for what I have read and I'd be interested in anyone who has knowledge an informed any opinions on this. I understand that cPTSD relates to chronic exposure to stressors and trauma.
 
SunnyDaze

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#2
I'm sorry for your series of unfortunate events,it sounds like you've really been through hell.

That being said,I'm not sure what you have described could warrant a CPTSD diagnosis.Usually it is reserved for severe,chronic,prolonged abuse or trauma.Although you have been through so much with your wife I'm not sure it would be considered the type of trauma that would cause PTSD or CPTSD.

From Wikipedia:

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD; also known as complex trauma disorder) is a psychological disorder that can develop in response to prolonged, repeated experience of interpersonal trauma in a context in which the individual has little or no chance of escape

That being said,I'm not a professional so the only way to really know is to see one.You said you were threatened with a weapon,that in itself could warrant a PTSD dx depending on the situation,your reaction to it and the lasting after effects from it.Or it's even possible you have had trauma in your past,even in childhood,and PTSD could just now be kicking in.IDK to be honest.

But usually a bad relationship isn't considered traumatic enough unless there's been domestic violence involved(and being threatened is considered DV)

I will stop there.Sorry,I honestly don't know.Are you seeing a professional to help you with this?That would be my suggestion.
 
M

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#3
Thx for that. It was of course more than a bad relationship (in the psychosis years).
As far as childhood goes, well yes, my mum took her life after she had depression through my teenage years. It was something I was not able to move I felt.
 
SunnyDaze

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#4
I'm sorry if I made it sound like I was minimizing your experiences by calling it "a bad relationship",that was not my intention at all. Just wrong wording on my behalf.

I'm sorry about your mom and everything else you have been through and as I said before,my suggestion would be to see a professional about all of this.I have PTSD,I think CPTSD fits better but since it's not yet in the DSM my therapist labeled it PTSD.I know some places are using that diagnosis though.

Have you seen anyone for all of this yet?
 
M

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#5
No, I didn't take offence. I understood where u were coming from. Funny really, because I'm slow to anger (expressing anger I find hard). Now if it had been me saying that to my ex-wife, I'd have been torn apart!
I need to express anger more . There's this guy at my tennis court club, who has taken any opportunity to bully me in the past. He had a go at me again today. I suddenly found myself wanting to challenge him for once (but the other 3 players said best to just ignore him). But I think I was aware of my anger not that far below my cloak of depression.
Yes, cPTSD. as u said it's not yet 'official'. I did go to a trauma place for assessment, and they dismissed me (they deal I think so much with known categories - refugees, child abuse). But afterwards, I felt, hey, thus isn't right. Their remit was for all sorts of trauma. I complained, and I will get a revisit.

I feel I find it hard, because I don't know what to focus on (therapeutically) without knowing exactly what I'm suffering from. My depression feels as if it's a symptom of past trauma, which I've failed to deal with at the time or since.
Good news? I'm 67 and can still play tennis reasonably.
Thx for your help.
 
SunnyDaze

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#6
You say you need to express anger more,I'm the opposite,I need to express less of it.With PTSD it's hard for me to control my anger and rage sometimes.Holding it in isn't good either,there must be a happy medium somewhere,I just wish I could find it.

I feel I find it hard, because I don't know what to focus on (therapeutically) without knowing exactly what I'm suffering from.
I don't really think most people know what they're suffering from really,do they?I mean they may have an idea of what it may be,they may research different illnesses and feel like they fit but many times they're not right t all or not even close.I know I never expected to get diagnosed with what I was,I had done so much research for many years trying to figure out what I was suffering with and I wasn't even close at all.

And even if you're not diagnosed with CPTSD or PTSD,you have definitely suffered from trauma and have had lasting affects from it and deserve to be helped.

I always like to suggest a forum that's all about PTSD and is very helpful.Since all the members there either have PTSD(or cPTSD) or care for someone that has it there's tons of people that can relate and understand what you're going through.You might want to check it out and even getting other opinions,like I said before,I honestly don't know.Maybe someone there will have had similar experiences as you.

My PTSD Forum
 
M

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#7
Thank you for suggesting that forum. Quite agree, we don't know for sure whether we know what we have, or whether what we do to help us is really of value.
....but we have to believe in something I guess
 
SunnyDaze

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#8
I believe anything we do to help ourselves is beneficial and we can't go wrong in trying regardless of what we are suffering with.
 
SunnyDaze

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#9
I hope you go talk with a professional about all of this.Trying to self diagnose is never a good idea really,I learned that first hand.

I hope you come back and post an update on how you are doing and what your diagnosis ended up being.I will cross my fingers that it's not PTSD or CPTSD,I wouldn't wish this hell on my worst enemy and hope it's not what you have.
 
M

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#10
Thx for that. I agree about pitfalls of self diagnosis. On the other hand, it's easy to find yourself categorised as, for example, 'straighforward' depression and find yourself going down the CBT route, when your problem is perhaps more than complex than that (in my case, long term exposure to severe emotional stress). At least, I hope I've got that right!
 
SunnyDaze

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#11
But the thing is it could be straightforward depression. If that's the symptom you're struggling with then that's what treatment should be geared towards,regardless of what caused it.

Depression can be a symptom of PTSD or complex PTSD but there's way more symptoms than that in being diagnosed.Do you have any other symptoms besides depression?

You did go through a lot of stress but trauma is what causes PTSD(and cptsd).Being threatened with a weapon is considered traumatic but doesn't mean you automatically have it just because you experienced trauma.Most ppl don't get PTSD,some do though.

What are your symptoms from being threatened with a weapon?How has that affected you,in what ways? That's what's important in being diagnosed with PTSD,the after effects.The rest of your story would be considered stress but not traumas.While arguing,her being angry,accusing you of taking a document and losing your home,partner,etc are hard things to experience, they're considered stress and not traumas that would warrant a dx of either PTSD or cPTSD.

Stress and trauma are not the same at all.It takes prolonged,severe trauma for complex ptsd.Nothing in your story is at that level.The weapon part though,that could cause PTSD lbut just because it happened doesn't mean it is..And that's why you need to talk to a professional for a dx.They won't dignose you just by what you experienced,the diagnosis will go by what your symptoms and struggles are.
 
SunnyDaze

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#12
Again,I'm sorry if I made it sound like I am minimizing your experiences,I am not doing that.I know you have suffered and struggled and still are and that does warrant treatment from a professional to help you get through it.You don't need to "figure out" what it is or diagnose yourself before seeking help.The main thing is relief of whatever your symptoms are.

Let the professionals do the diagnosing.
 
M

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#13
Fotgot to press send on this earlier today:
I can see how complex it all is! (pun intended - I still have a little humour left).
Symptoms apart from depression and anxiety?:
At times I feel not there, as if I'm in a bubble. ....and don't worry, I realised you weren't minimising my experiences.
My therapist is not specifically a trauma therapist, but includes it in his resumé. I don't even know how 'entitled' I am to feel traumatised. There's a lot if choices out there in the therapy field. My NHS assessment was simplistic I felt, and I just spent 1 year (after 18 month wait), talking away randomly, no structure. I felt it was time wasted.
Now I have a private therapist, 8 months. Nice guy, inexpensive (charitable organisation), but not much idea yet of what I'm achieving. Best thing now is giving space to my anger which I've kept so contained...
 
SunnyDaze

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#14
I don't even know how 'entitled' I am to feel traumatised
Unless I am misunderstanding,you are equating feeling traumatised to PTSD or CPTSD,like believing that if a person has suffered trauma and feel traumatised then it must be one or the other.Many ppl go through trauma and don't get PTSD,heck,2 ppl can go through the same experience and one person not be affected at all while the other ends up with it.

I also kinda feel you want the label to feel you have a right to feel the way you do.It doesn't take a label to feel like shit and feel traumatised.Being diagnosed with CPTSD isn't an 'entitlement" at all,it's pure hell to live with and it's very disruptive to living a normal life.You talk more about what you experienced rather than what your symptoms are.PTSD(or CPTSD) is more than just anxiety,depression and feeling like you're living in a bubble.Have you researched the symptoms of it? It's not a badge of honor to wear,it's not a way to prove just how bad things are/were,it's a mental disorder.

CPTSD is PTSD,just more complex because it involves prolonged,severe trauma where PTSD is usually a one time event that causes it.(I say usually because I was diagnosed with it even though I suffered prolonged,severe abuse but since CPTSD isn't in the DSM I was only diagnosed with PTSD). Regardless, either one is still PTSD and the treatment is still basically the same,working through and processing the traumas that caused it in the first place.Learning to recognize triggers,dealing with symptoms,etc.You make it seem like PTSD and CPTSD are two totally different entities but really they're not.

A trauma specialist isn't really necessary to treat PTSD,it's usually a better route to go but not necessary.I'm sure most have a good concept of what trauma is and how to best treat it.I'm sure most are good with diagnosing it too.There's clear symptoms that accompany it that make it easily recognizable.

I'm curious whether you are seeking a diagnosis or seeking help with your symptoms.You should be working on the anxiety,depression and the feeling like you're in a bubble with your therapist.If what you experienced is what you want to process then that's what you should be talking about.You don't have to seek a specialist to do that and you don't have to have a diagnosis to do that.You seem to be focusing on getting the diagnosis instead of getting help for your symptoms.

I really don't know what else to say besides good luck with all of this and I hope you find what you're looking for.I wish I could hand over my diagnosis to you if it's really what you're wanting,I would give it to you in a heartbeat.I don't understand why anyone would want the diagnosis anyway.

Good luck to you.I have tried to help the best I can.For your sake I hope you don't have it. I don't think you are truly grasping just how serious and debilitating it is.
 
M

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#15
I read your two replies in the wrong order. I think I get what you're saying. I've been unhappy about not seeming to get better (3-4 years since we split up). I've been doing lots of activities/getting out and about - mindfulness, physical exercise, socialising, art classes, choir. So, I have been seeking answers to why I'm still feeling unwell (not the first person to do that). I think you've convinced me to leave the cPTSD avenue alone
Cheers again, and I wish you the best of health for the future
 
SunnyDaze

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#16
I wasn't trying to "convince" you that it's not CPTSD,just trying to get you to see that it could be something else,like depression or something.And that getting help for symptoms is more important than latching on to a diagnosis that may or may not fit.
 
M

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#17
I see what u say.
I came to thinking about cPTSD as my depression was not getting better and thought that there might be a dimension that I hadn't considered. Depression can exist by itself (as the primary disorder), you're saying, and can also be as a secondary symptom of cPTSD.
I am seeing a trauma specialist but I think, with the information I have acquired from your careful advice, I won't go in there asserting anything about cPTSD. I know they are under pressure to accept only the most needy clients (nhs funded unit).
I guess that's it unless u gave any more advice. Thx
 
SunnyDaze

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#18
Oh please don't base your decisions on anything I have said.I'm definitely not an expert and as I said way earlier in this thread, I honestly don't know.

I do think it might be a good idea to talk to the specialist about CPTSD though so it can either be ruled out or confirmed.
 
M

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#19
Thanks, will take what you say into consideration. It seems tough to diagnose then. The message I have is that it is so much worse than `plain old depression', but what are the unique of distinguishing features. That has not been made clear to me
 
SunnyDaze

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#20
  1. Attachment - "problems with relationship boundaries, lack of trust, social isolation, difficulty perceiving and responding to other’s emotional states, and lack of empathy"
  2. Biology - "sensory-motor developmental dysfunction, sensory-integration difficulties, somatization, and increased medical problems"
  3. Affect or emotional regulation - "poor affect regulation, difficulty identifying and expressing emotions and internal states, and difficulties communicating needs, wants, and wishes"
  4. Dissociation - "amnesia, depersonalization, discrete states of consciousness with discrete memories, affect, and functioning, and impaired memory for state-based events"
  5. Behavioral control - "problems with impulse control, aggression, pathological self-soothing, and sleep problems"
  6. Cognition - "difficulty regulating attention, problems with a variety of "executive functions" such as planning, judgement, initiation, use of materials, and self- monitoring, difficulty processing new information, difficulty focusing and completing tasks, poor object constancy, problems with "cause-effect" thinking, and language developmental problems such as a gap between receptive and expressive communication abilities."
  7. Self-concept -"fragmented and disconnected autobiographical narrative, disturbed body image, low self-esteem, excessive shame, and negative
This was taken from the myptsd forum I told you about.It would be the above symptoms of CPTSD along with the usual PTSD symptoms.which you can easily find with a Google search.These are not all of the symptoms of CPTSD,they can also be found by doing a search.I'm not going to compare it to "plain old depression" but I will say yes it's way more than just depression.
 

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