Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) is a condition that can develop in individuals who have experienced repeated or prolonged trauma, such as childhood abuse, domestic violence, or captivity. While C-PTSD is not yet an official diagnosis in the DSM-5, it is recognized as a variant of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by some mental health professionals.

Symptoms of Complex PTSD

Symptoms of C-PTSD can include a range of physical, emotional, and psychological reactions. Common symptoms may include:

  • persistent feelings of fear or anxiety,
  • difficulty regulating emotions,
  • dissociation, and
  • a sense of helplessness or hopelessness.

Individuals with C-PTSD may also experience problems with memory and concentration and changes in their self-perception and beliefs about the world around them.

How does cPTSD develop?

Complex PTSD (c-PTSD) typically develops in response to prolonged, repeated, or severe trauma.

Unlike PTSD, which often results from a single traumatic event, c-PTSD can develop over time in response to chronic or ongoing trauma. The severity and duration of the trauma can vary widely, and different types of trauma can contribute to the development of c-PTSD. However, the most common types of trauma associated with c-PTSD are childhood abuse and neglect, intimate partner violence, and captivity or prolonged exposure to extreme stress.

In Australia, the prevalence of c-PTSD is not yet fully known, but research suggests that rates of PTSD, which includes c-PTSD, are relatively high. According to the Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, around 1 million Australians are affected by PTSD at any given time, with rates being highest among women and individuals who have experienced interpersonal violence.

What helps?

If you or someone you know has experienced trauma and is struggling with symptoms, seeking support from a mental health professional is recommended.

Treatment for c-PTSD may involve a range of approaches, including talk therapy, medication, and other supportive interventions.

Contact us to arrange a confidential appointment with one of our qualified therapists.


  • Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health. (2019). PTSD in Australia. Retrieved from
  • Courtois, C. A., & Ford, J. D. (2019). Treating complex traumatic stress disorders: An evidence-based guide. Guilford Press.
  • Herman, J. L. (1992). Complex PTSD: A syndrome in survivors of prolonged and repeated trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 5(3), 377-391.
  • Van der Kolk, B. A. (2014). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. Penguin.