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Complex Trauma and Complex PTSD

Mental Health • by Paul De Beyer • 06 May 2022

Trauma. It’s a defining word that most of us can relate to on some level. Whatever age you might be, we’ve all experienced some level of emotional, physical or psychological trauma at some point in our lives.

Like all things in life, the trauma we’ve experienced has varied levels of impact, from the trauma of breaking up with your first girl or boyfriend, to losing a parent, or even as far as a violent attack. Each one of these traumatic events leaves some level of scarring, meaning that we can never truly forget what we’ve experienced.  

Sometimes the trauma we experience is so great that we struggle to move on at all. These types of events trigger post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which can be debilitating to all those involved. Sadly, there are events that go a step further and can trigger Complex PTSD (C-PTSD).

What is Complex PTSD?

Simply put, it’s a more extreme version of PTSD. C-PTSD is generally diagnosed in patients who have experienced multiple, repeated traumatic events over a period of time. These types of events often include violence, neglect or abuse of some kind.

C-PTSD is also heightened if the traumatic event happened early in life, occurred over a prolonged period, or was caused by a parent, loved one or caretaker.

What are the symptoms of Complex PTSD?

Complex PTSD follows very similar lines to that of PTSD. This means that anyone suffering from it might experience:

Complex PTSD sufferers may also have enhanced symptoms of PTSD, such as:

How can you treat Complex PTSD?

The idea of C-PTSD is relatively new and direct treatment still follows a very similar pattern to PTSD. Treatment may include:

As health professionals learn more about C-PTSD, new treatment plans will emerge, such as Prolonged Exposure Therapy and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR).

We offer therapy from proffesionals – all you need to do is call

If you feel like you’re suffering from any form of mental distress, please reach out to a friend, family member or doctor for help immediately. If you’re a GetSavvi Health member, please remember that you’re part of our Member Wellness Programme, which gives you access to telephonic support, advice and counselling on a wide range of topics, including HIV, trauma and assault counselling.

If you’re not a GetSavvi Health member, please know that there are organisations that you can  contact for help:

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) is Africa's largest mental health support and advocacy group. They’re committed to quality counselling, outreach and capacity building work throughout South Africa. Visit the SADAG website for a list of helplines.


You can also contact LifeLine South Africa for free counseling on 0861 32 23 22

Living with complex PTSD
Complex PTSD - Post-traumatic stress disorder

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD)
What to Know About Complex PTSD and Its Symptoms


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