NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Thursday, December 1, 2022

What is Complex Trauma?

Psychological trauma can be a single event, like shock trauma, which includes being the victim of a robbery, a car accident, an assault or living through a devastating hurricane where your house is destroyed, among other things. 

What is Complex Trauma?

Complex trauma involves many related traumatic events experienced by children, including abuse and profound neglect, that occur over an extended period of time and the difficulties that arise as a result adapting to and surviving these events.

According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), 1 in 7 children experience abuse or neglect.

What Are the Symptoms of Complex Trauma For Adults?
The symptoms of complex trauma can include any of the following:
  • Feeling anxious
  • Feeling depressed
  • Experiencing flashbacks
  • Experiencing nightmares
  • Avoiding circumstances that remind you of the traumatic events (emotional avoidance)
  • Having difficulty managing emotions
  • Perceiving yourself in a distorted way
  • Feeling worthless
  • Avoiding or having difficulty with personal relationships
  • Feeling disconnected from yourself or others (a form of dissociation)
  • Having problems remembering parts of your childhood 
  • Having difficulty providing a comprehensive narrative of your childhood memories, which can include memories which are fragmented
  • Experiencing sleep problems
  • Experiencing sexual problems
  • Experiencing medical problems, like Type 2 diabetes
  • Feeling body aches, including migraines, stomach and digestive problems, arthritis
  • Experiencing low energy or fatigue
  • Misusing drugs, alcohol, tobacco, food
  • Engaging in other compulsive or impulsive behavior, including compulsive gambling, sexual compulsivity, and other behaviors
Examples of Complex Trauma
Complex trauma often begins in childhood.  These events are recurrent, overwhelming and longstanding, and they are usually perpetrated by other adults, like family members, family friends, neighbors, clergy, and so on.  These incidents often occur over a span of weeks, months or years.

Examples of complex trauma include:
And so on.

Mind-Body Oriented Psychotherapy For Complex Trauma
The following mind-body oriented therapies are often effective to overcome complex trauma:

Getting Help in Therapy
If you are experiencing complex trauma symptoms, you could benefit from working with a trauma therapist (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?).

Once you have worked through your unresolved trauma, you can lead a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I am a trauma therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.