Common Symptoms of CPTSD According to Pete Walker

What is CPTSD?

CPTSD is a more severe form of PTSD.

In his book, Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving, Pete Walker lists the 5 most common features that differentiate CPTSD from PTSD.

The 5 most common symptoms of CPTSD:

  • emotional flashbacks

  • toxic shame

  • self abandonment

  • a vicious inner/outer critic

  • social anxiety

CPTSD is a learned set of coping strategies that are caused by experiencing complex trauma.

CPTSD develops as a response to our environment, therefore it is a disorder that is caused by nurture, not nature.

As it is a learned response, it can be unlearned through recovery work.

Common Symptoms of CPTSD

  • emotional flashbacks

  • tyrannical inner and/or outer critic

  • toxic shame

  • self abandonment

  • social anxiety

  • abject feelings of loneliness and abandonment

  • fragile self-esteem

  • attachment disorder

  • developmental arrests

  • relationship difficulties

  • radical mood vacillations

  • dissociation via distracting activities or mental processes

  • hair-triggered fight/flight response

  • oversensitivity to stressful situations

  • suicidal ideation

What Are Emotional Flashbacks?

Emotional flashbacks are the most common and troublesome symptom of CPTSD.

Flashbacks are the re-experiencing of the trauma.

Emotional flashbacks do not have a visual component as they do in PTSD.

They involve the survivor becoming overwhelmed with the intense feelings of being an abused/abandoned child.

These intense feelings can include overwhelming fear, shame, alienation, rage, grief and depression.

Pete Walker's 13 Steps For Managing Emotional Flashbacks

In his book, Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving, Pete Walker has a list of 13 steps that help reduce emotional flashbacks.

I have found them very useful in helping me with my recovery.

If you are having an emotional flashback right now I want you to stay tuned and try out the steps I use to see if they help reduce the intensity of your flashback.

The Steps I Take When I Am In An Emotional Flashback

I acknowledge it and say out loud, over and over, "I am having an emotional flashback, I am having an emotional flashback, I am having an emotional flashback" as many times as I need to.

I tell myself that I am safe and that I am in a grown up body.

I pay attention to my breathing, saying in my head, "breathe in, breath out", and repeat for as long as I need to. Try it now. This helps me to be mindful and to bring me back to the present moment.

I then try to figure out what triggered me and what I might have been flashing back to.

I use my steps in the absence of Pete Walker's 13 steps to lessen the severity of my flashbacks.

Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving

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