After enough bullying, enough continued abuse, enough time living in what seems like Hell, people will find a way to adapt to the constant pain. The way they respond can give birth to a cluster of symptoms. These symptoms aren’t exactly PTSD. The disorder is called Prolonged Duress Stress Disorder, or Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PDSD.
Here are the Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms. C-PTSD is another name for this hurtful mental illness. You’ll also see it called Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Complex Traumatic Stress Disorder, Cumulative Stress Disorder, Complex Trauma Disorder, and Chronic Stress Disorder. Why so many names? What is PDSD?
Kids suffering from constant bullying or emotional abuse can develop something that’s called PDSD. It stands for Prolonged Duress Stress Disorder. Kids who have PDSD will isolate themselves from others and show a lack of empathy for other people. The disorder can also cause developmental difficulties. They’ll have problems showing their parents what they want or what they feel. They have trouble communicating that they need love and safety. They will have amnesia about the traumatic events. They will be aggressive and have problems with impulse control. These kids will have trouble thinking, planning, and paying attention. Parents will see their kids have low self-esteem, shame, and guilt.
Here’s how symptoms of severe PTSD show with adults: family will see they are having difficulty regulating their emotions. They’ll never get angry or they’ll go nuclear at the drop of a hat. Like kids do, they’ll have a kind of amnesia about the traumatic events. Or they’ll relive the abuse over and over again. They’ll lose their faith in religion. They’ll isolate themselves or look for someone to rescue them. They’ll give so much power to the perpetrator and be obsessed with revenge.
PTSD is a disorder that we hear a lot about on TV or read about in the news. The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder definition psychology gives us is trauma from one event. The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnostic criteria is defined formally. But the PTSD definition pyschology offers us is different from Complex PTSD. Because the two are similar, PDSD hasn’t been as formalized and has many many names. You can find a complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder test on the web, but it might be called one of its other names. When you try to find a Chronic PTSD definition, you might get a list of persecution complex symptoms. Search for Complex PTSD criteria, and you get chronic PTSD symptoms. What is Complex PTSD? It’s the same as Chronic Stress Disorder. C-PTSD symptoms are the same as PDSD ones described above.
All the names are trying to capture how different this diagnosis is from PTSD, even though they have some things in common. In fact, the doctors who define mental illness haven’t yet recognized that is a separate disorder.
When it comes to Complex PTSD emotional abuse is often a cause. People do get PTSD from bullying, but they also can get PDSD, especially if the stress and pain keeps happening. People can get PDSD from workplace bullying or being in a relationship with someone who hits them, or constantly belittles them.
In the PTSD definition psychology students read, people don’t have the same attachment problems and feelings of entrapment. Where there’s bullying PTSD might follow. Or a child might be fine. Or a child will develop PDSD, and needs different treatment. PTSD bullying caused won’t give kids (or adults) the sense of unreality, of being in a daze that PDSD will.
It’s hard to function when you think you’re constantly having a stress breakdown. Maybe you think PTSD paranoia or some other mental illness. Maybe your whole life will revolve around how you try to avoid the pain of stress and PTSD. But if you’re also feeling that sense of disassociation and detached from everything around you, it might be PDSD, not Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
You can’t really diagnose someone with a mental illness, even yourself, just from the information on the internet. If these symptoms and situations sound familiar to you, it’s time to consult a psychologist or psychiatrist.
Seeking treatment does not make you a head case. It does not make you weak. It’s easy to think those things, often bullies and abusers want you to think those things. All of us absorb so many wrong narratives about mental health. On TV, people will develop depression or PTSD and then get better in two episodes. They don’t even need therapy, they just need that one conversation where someone tells them it’s not their fault. When we see mental illness made so trivial and easy to fix, we think we’re the ones who are doing it wrong. We see people with mental illness vilified and written off as violent, when actually people with mental illness are more likely to be the ones being abused. PTSD in particular gets used as an excuse on TV – that’s why that guy shot up the grocery store. Real mental illness isn’t that neat.
People will feel like they’re the ones who caused the problem by not fighting back or not speaking up. Problems like abuse are the fault of the abuser.
The cause of abuse and bullying is because the abuser or bully chose to do these things to another person.
Treating PDSD isn’t like treating PTSD. PDSD can require staged treatment where therapy and other treatments are done at specific points in the recovery process. The first stage is making patients feel safe, and helping them understand and manage their responses. Stage two is remembering and mourning the trauma. Processing fully what happened to the person is important. The third stage is reconnecting to life again.
It can be very important to get a correct diagnosis as some studies have shown that people with C-PTSD receiving PTSD treatment didn’t get better at all. When doctors are treating PDSD they need to see what the patients were like before and what resources they have to cope. With PDSD patients, you can’t address the trauma until the patient has learned to manage their emotions and reactions.
A lot of PDSD patients feel defeated. They become numb and detached. They react in ways that have helped them in the past, but don’t work in the least long-term. That’s why the first part of treatment is to find that sense of safety and not feel lost everyday,
PDSD is treatable. People will get better. Going from living in a daze and feeling detached from everything is no way to live and treatment can help you get back to the joy and wonder of life.