Recently we have been discussing the twenty-four most common symptoms of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD). We’ve discovered in pieces one and two in this series how people living with the aftereffects of severe repeated trauma often experience sleep disturbances, flashbacks, and other problems.

Recapping What We Have Covered

As we have already learned, there are dozens of symptoms of complex post-traumatic stress disorder listed online and there may be more. However, for the purpose of this series we are only tackling twenty-four of them.

  1. Reliving the trauma through flashbacks and nightmares
  2. Avoiding situations that remind them of the trauma
  3. Dizziness or nausea when remembering the trauma
  4. Hyperarousal
  5. The belief that the world is a dangerous place
  6. A loss of trust in the self or others
  7. Difficulty sleeping
  8. Startling easy by loud noises
  9. A negative self-view
  10. Emotional regulation difficulties
  11. Problems with relationships
  12. Thoughts or actions of suicide
  13. Fixating on the abuser or seeking revenge
  14. Losing memories of trauma or reliving them
  15. Difficulty regulating emotions that often manifest as rage
  16. Depression
  17. Sudden mood swings
  18. Feeling detached from oneself
  19. Feeling different from others
  20. Feeling ashamed
  21. Feeling guilty
  22. Difficulty maintaining relationships
  23. Seeking our or becoming a rescuer
  24. Feeling afraid for no obvious reason

We have already covered the first twelve symptoms and are now ready to go on to our next six.

The Next Six Symptoms of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

There is a myriad of different symptoms for CPTSD, almost as many as there are survivors dealing with them. This is why we are only covering six at a time of the most common symptoms, to help with understanding what they are and that those experiencing them are not strange, crazy, or alone.


The next six symptoms we will tackle in this piece are:

  1. Fixating on the abuser and Desiring revenge
  2. Losing memories of trauma or reliving them
  3. Difficulty regulating emotions that often manifest as rage
  4. Depression
  5. Sudden mood swings
  6. Feeling detached from oneself

Let us examine each symptom one in-depth one at a time.

Fixating on the Abuser and Desiring Revenge

Human children are helpless to protect themselves against any form of an abusive situation and do their best to adapt when their home life is traumatic. As they grow, kids learn to adjust their expectations while they maneuver themselves through the maze of lost trust and hope.

A paper published in The Journal of Trauma and Dissociation describes the complicated dance between a child, their abusive adults, and witnesses to the trauma as follows:

“The perpetrators, their victims, and the reluctant witnesses form together with a complex and highly emotive relationship, bound in secrets and silence. These are not strangers, but people often know each other well and play central roles in each other lives.”

When these hurt children become adult survivors, especially after entering treatment, it is natural to be angry over what happened to them in childhood. The most basic emotional response is to fixate on the perpetrator of the crimes and how survivors wish they could change history. This burden is made even tougher when the feelings of needing to exact revenge fill their minds with thoughts of harming someone else “the way they hurt me”.

While these emotions are understandable, the only one who would truly be hurt by hate or revenge toward the perpetrators is not them, it is the survivor who pays the price. Anger, hate, and revenge prey on the mind and close avenues to moving forward with a new life, so it is advisable to work through these emotions and lay them to rest as much as possible as soon as possible.

Losing Memories of Trauma or Reliving Them

Normally, memories are stored with accompanying sensory input and emotions such as the smell of home-baked bread with happiness on Christmas Day. Those memories will be “filed” together for easier retrieval. Yet, despite so many providers and other interested parties’ beliefs, changes in memory are deeply involved with CPTSD because traumatic events can cause memories to become “misfiled” in the brain.

It isn’t only forgetting events that happen in complex post-traumatic stress disorder as suddenly reliving the traumatic events of the past are involved too. In the form of emotional flashbacks, those living with CPTSD can become overwhelmed with reliving the past when triggered by sensory stimulation or related emotion.

Difficulty Regulating Emotions That Often Manifest as Rage

All of us have been a victim of a toddler’s temper tantrum. They kick, stomp, yell, and rage because they didn’t get their way or are angry.

Children learn to regulate their emotions from the adults in their lives. However, if the people who are charged with helping kids learn how to deal with emotions do not do so, children are left with few tools.

Unfortunately, children living under these circumstances never learn that rage is not normally the desired emotion to respond with during disappointment or angry situations.

As adults, survivors living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder do not have the information they need from childhood to respond appropriately to strong emotion.


You’ve all heard it said that depression is anger turned inward. Perhaps there is a grain of truth to the cliché. People diagnosed with CPTSD have a lot of pent up rage toward their perpetrators which, unfortunately, becomes thoughts, behaviors, and actions against themselves.

The changes to the brain caused by trauma also play a huge part in the formation of depression in survivors. The stress hormones that flowed continuously during childhood because of trauma harm brain structures not allowing for normal functioning in areas vulnerable for self-acceptance and self-awareness.

 Sudden Mood Swings

Sudden mood swings are also related to trauma changing the survivor’s ability to regulate emotion and brain structure changes.

Mood swings may also occur because of triggers in the environment of the person that is so subtle as to not be in the survivor’s conscious awareness.

Feeling Detached from Oneself

It is not strange for humans to experience the feeling of not being real or as if they are walking in a dream world. However, when those two feelings become a problem for a survivor it can be frightening and often leads to them looking for professional assistance.

It is common for survivors to form a condition known as a depersonalization-derealization disorder, especially after traumatic experiences or flashbacks to them.

Depersonalization-derealization disorder may be severe and interfere with relationships, daily activities and work so seeking a therapist might be in order.

Defeating the Symptoms of CPTSD

There are no easy answers to overcoming the effects of complex post-traumatic stress disorder have over survivor’s lives. The long-lasting problems that accompany it, such as the symptoms we have covered thus far and will cover in the next article are complex and difficult to defeat.

However, just because a problem is difficult does not mean it needs to rule your existence for your entire life.

Overcomers are people who are either too stubborn or determined (perhaps a little of both) to quit and will not nor will they ever give those who hurt them a win by giving up.

With hard work, perseverance, and a lot of guts, survivors can move past being called that to become something more, thrivers.

“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.” ~ Marie Curie


A Closer Look at the Symptoms of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder


The Life Altering Symptoms of CPTSD – 7 through 12


Continuing the Series on The Symptoms of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Symptoms 13-18


The Final Six Symptoms of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder



Share This