What is complex trauma?

Kate Bartlett
11 Jan 2022
2 min read

Complex trauma refers to the psychological and physical harm that results from repeated and prolonged exposure to traumatic events, such as abuse, neglect, or other types of maltreatment. Complex trauma can profoundly impact an individual’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being, and it can lead to a range of mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

Unlike single-incident trauma, which occurs because of a one-time event, such as a car accident or natural disaster, complex trauma typically occurs over an extended period, often during childhood. This type of trauma can be particularly damaging because it often occurs within the context of a person’s primary relationships, such as with parents, caregivers, or other family members, and it can have a lasting impact on an individual’s sense of self and their ability to trust and form healthy relationships.

Symptoms of complex trauma may include problems with self-regulation, such as difficulty managing emotions or controlling impulses, as well as problems with interpersonal relationships, such as difficulty trusting others or forming healthy attachments. People who have experienced complex trauma may also have trouble with memory and concentration and may tend to dissociate or disconnect from their thoughts, feelings, and surroundings.