The Importance of a C-PTSD Test for Proper Diagnosis and Treatment

C-PTSD Test for Proper Diagnosis and Treatment

Approximately 6 percent of the U.S. population will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point in their lives. While often associated with the experiences of soldiers in war zones, PTSD can stem from many different causes. These include domestic or childhood abuse, car accidents, and other distressing life events. 

Just as there are many different causes of PTSD, there are distinct types, including C-PTSD. Like every other mental health condition, proper diagnosis is imperative to determine suitable treatment.  

That is where at C-PTSD test comes in. This article explains what it entails and why it is so important to complex trauma recovery. Keep reading to learn more about C-PTSD, how it is diagnosed, and effective treatments for combating its effects. 

What Is C-PTSD?

“C-PTSD” stands for “Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” It is distinct from regular PTSD, which is trauma that results from a single event, such as a vehicle crash or natural disaster. 

C-PTSD, on the other hand, arises from ongoing or repeated traumatic events. Common ones include:

  • Childhood abuse
  • Long-term physical or sexual abuse
  • Long-term domestic violence
  • Being a victim of human trafficking
  • Community violence
  • Being exposed to violence in a war zone for an extended period

For example, someone who witnessed a single act of violence may suffer from PTSD. An individual who endured years of abuse in a relationship may have C-PTSD. 

One reason for this distinction is the potential for changes in the brain’s chemistry and structure. People who suffer from both PTSD and C-PTSD can experience permanent changes to different parts of the brain. However, someone with C-PTSD is more likely to experience them, and the effects tend to be more pronounced. 

This includes the amygdala, which processes fear and emotions. PTSD and C-PTSD can also bring about changes to the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning.

Finally, trauma can impact the prefrontal cortex, which controls executive functions. These include things like planning, decision-making, and social behavior.  

While these neurological impacts can happen with PTSD, they are often more apparent with C-PTSD. This is one reason why an appropriate diagnosis is imperative. It aids in both understanding the condition and determining the right treatment. 

What Are the Symptoms of C-PTSD?

Many of the symptoms of C-PTSD are the same as those of regular PTST. However, they can differ in frequency and intensity. Common ones include: 

  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Difficulty regulating emotions
  • Dissociation
  • Relationship problems
  • Self-esteem issues
  • Feelings of shame and guilt
  • Physical pain
  • Self-harm

There are also a few symptoms that, while not exclusive to C-PTSD, are more prevalent and often severe with the condition. One is reexperiencing the trauma symptoms.

This can take the form of nightmares and flashbacks. Again, they tend to be much more frequent or intense than those associated with PTSD. 

All people who suffer from PTSD or C-PTSD will take steps to avoid anything that reminds them of the traumatic event. This includes people, places, activities, and even mildly-related thoughts. 

However, a trait that is unique to people with C-PTSD is that they will have trouble remembering specific aspects of the trauma. This may sound like a good thing, but it is the result of greater repression of those thoughts, which can be more dangerous when they do manifest. 

Finally, people with C-PTSD will experience a higher level of threat than individuals with standard PTSD. For instance, they are more likely to be in an almost constant state of lookout for anything that could trigger negative responses to the trauma. 

This makes them more likely to exhibit avoidance behaviors. They are more likely to have more problems maintaining personal or workplace relationships. People with C-PTSD are more likely to experience hypervigilance and insomnia. 

Keep in mind that C-PTSD is a newly recognized diagnosis. Even some medical providers may be unfamiliar with it and make a diagnosis of PTSD. For this reason, it is useful for patients with PTSD to get a C-PTSD test

What Is a C-PTSD Test?

There is not a single, specific test that diagnoses (or rules out) the presence of C-PTSD. Rather, a C-PTSD test is a collection of tools used to assess symptoms and their causes. 

Initial Interview

The first phase is an interview with a mental health professional. This is a conversation with the patient about different aspects of their life as it relates to the traumatic events they experienced. 

The clinician will ask the patient about their history of trauma and current symptoms. They will also ask how these symptoms impact their daily functioning and relationships. They will look at how specific thoughts, feelings, and behaviors relate to the symptoms. 

Besides specific traumatic events, the clinician may ask about your general medical history. These factors can influence the type of treatment that is suggested. 


If needed, the mental health professional will follow up with a questionnaire for the patient. The International Trauma Questionnaire is the most widely used. It has been validated across different populations and is freely available. 

This asks the patient to rate the frequency and severity of symptoms. It takes information about how often the patient has intrusive memories or negative thoughts related to traumatic incidents.

The questionnaire will give the mental health professional an idea about how severe these episodes are and what physiological effects they have. For example, it will tell them what thoughts trigger crying, difficulty breathing, uncontrollable shaking, or hyperarousal. 

What Can Patients Do to Improve Diagnosis Accuracy?

There are some basic things that people who suspect they may be affected by C-PTSD can do to improve the accuracy of diagnosis. A simple one is to keep track of symptoms. This includes as much detail as possible about frequency and intensity. 

Also, note when symptoms begin and end. This can be useful for looking at changes in the condition over time. 

Also, be sure to jot down triggers. Document with as much detail as possible, even if the suspected triggering conditions make little sense to you. The more information health professionals have to work with, the clearer a picture they will have of what you are experiencing. 

What Are the Treatments for C-PTSD?

Fortunately, there are many effective ways to treat complex PTSD. These usually include some combination of therapy and medical interventions. 

Trauma-Focused Therapy

Trauma-Focused Therapy is an umbrella term that both describes and focuses on the types of therapy used to treat C-PTSD. For instance, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective approaches.  

CBT focuses on the relationships between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It helps the individual understand emotional processing and identify triggers associated with C-PTSD.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a psychotherapy aimed at treating personality disorders. It is often used in patients with mood disorders, suicidal ideation, and interpersonal conflicts. It can help treat negative behavioral patterns, like self-harm or substance abuse.

DBT establishes a hierarchy of treatment targets that prioritizes types of behaviors. For instance, it attempts to address suicidal attempts over, for instance, quality-of-life issues. 

This tiered approach helps the person focus on the most potentially harmful areas of their life. This also makes the lesser challenges more manageable.

Finally, people with C-PTSD may benefit from group and family therapy. These help create a healthy support network for the patient.

Group therapy lets the individual hear from other people who have had similar experiences, symptoms, and related challenges. This can impart new perspectives and skills for coping. 

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Common medical interventions for C-PTSD include antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs. With severe cases of anxiety, dissociation, or psychoses, antipsychotic medications may be prescribed.  

There are other medications helpful in addressing related conditions. For instance, there are effective drugs for combatting substance abuse. 

The right medication depends on the unique circumstances of the patient. Medication-assisted treatment is almost always combined with trauma-focused therapy when addressing C-PTSD.  

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is also an effective treatment for C-PTSD. It is a unique set of exercises where the patient thinks of a traumatic event while moving their eyes from side to side. This technique has proven to help desensitize the individual to traumatic memories. 

There is some debate about EMDR’s usefulness in the medical community. However, the American Psychological Association recognizes it as an effective treatment for C-PTSD. 

Other Treatments

People with C-PTSD also can benefit from other types of treatment besides therapy and medical interventions. These include mindfulness and relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga. These can help manage stress and regulate emotions. 

Many people with C-PTSD find that physical exercise and healthy eating habits help manage the condition. This is especially true if they suffer from insomnia, anxiety, or depression. Other supports for living healthy a lifestyle may be warranted as well.  

Find C-PTSD Treatment Near You

Now that you understand how a C-PTSD test works and why it is important, you can move forward with treatment. Remember that receiving an accurate diagnosis is essential for success. A qualified mental health professional can further advise you on the best approach based on your unique circumstances. 

At Purpose Healing Center, we have programs at both our Scottsdale and Phoenix campuses. Our goal is to provide comprehensive yet customized addiction support plans for every individual. Contact us today to learn more treatment options.