Complex trauma or better known as complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) results from enduring trauma for a long period of time, in my case child abuse.

Complex trauma is where I was traumatized in captivity; that is, with no way of escaping. My ongoing child abuse is captivity abuse because I as the child could not escape, well until I did!

The impact of complex trauma is very different to a one time or short-lived trauma, such as a shark attack. The effect of repeated and ongoing trauma – caused by people – changes the brain, and also changes the survivor at a core level. It changes the way survivors view the world, other people and themselves in profound ways.

(1)  Deep Fear Of Trust

I endured ongoing abuse, particularly from significant people in my life; that is my parents. Therefore I have developed an intense and understandable fear of trusting people. Ongoing trauma wires the brain for fear and distrust. 

After years of abuse, I often find trusting people very difficult, and it takes little for any trust built to be destroyed. The brain senses these issues and this overwhelms the already severely-traumatized brain. This fear of trust is extremely impactful on a survivor’s life. I feel that trust can be learned slowly and carefully.

(2)  State of Increased Alertness

Most people with complex trauma have a state of increased alertness, where the person scans the environment for potential risks and likes to have their back to the wall.

Since childhood, I have been aware of people’s non-verbal cues; their body language, their tone of voice, their facial expressions. Then if anything occurs that contradicts any of this, it will immediately flag as something potentially dangerous.

(3) Aloneness

The terribly painful aloneness I have always felt as a complex trauma survivor. I often feel so little connection and trust with people, that I remain in a terrible state of aloneness, even when surrounded by people.

I can see them, but I cannot connect with them. Another issue that increases this aloneness is feeling different from other people. Feeling damaged, broken and unable to be like other people as haunted me, increasing the loneliness.

(4) Emotional Flashbacks

These Flashbacks are where your mind is triggered and you are transported back to the trauma, and you feel as though you are reliving it. This however only happens in your mind.