CPTSD without memory flashbacks (only with emotional ones). Anyone else?

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Riverstar

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I have basically all the symptoms of PTSD from an abusive childhood - "overreacting" to things, nightmares, social anxiety etc, but I recently tried to get a diagnosis for PTSD and my psychiatrist said she couldn't call what I had PTSD because I didn't have flashbacks or nightmares of particular memories from my past. I have flashbacks of fear and nightmares of people trying to kill me, but I don't have nightmares of my dad beating me up, for instance. I think for me one of the reasons for this (other than it being for my entire childhood and not being just one event) is that I was gaslighted to a degree by my mother and have some disassociation between my feelings and my memories (my memories don't seem 'enough' to justify how I felt, because I was constantly told to forget about things and that I was overreacting). So it's easier for me to speak of my past in metaphors - it was like being a slave, being chained in my own house, like one of those people who are kidnapped by seemingly normal people and who live crazy lives right next to normal ones, like living in a fantasy movie etc. So this may be the explanation for it, but I'm wondering - is anyone else like this? Do you have CPTSD without reliving particular memories (but just feelings, like me)?

(I also only just found this forum today, and only learned that there's a 'complex' variant of PTSD)

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Three Roses

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Re: CPTSD without memory flashbacks (only with emotional ones). Anyone else?
« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2016, 11:08:11 PM »
First of all, welcome! Glad to have you here.

The difference between ptsd and cptsd is only in the number of events that have traumatized you. PTSD is from one traumatic event, complex PTSD is from "chronic or long-term exposure to emotional trauma over which a victim has little or no control and from which there is little or no hope of escape, such as in cases of: domestic emotional, physical or sexual abuse." (OOTF)

Sadly, because it keeps some people from getting effective help, CPTSD is not listed in the current DSM, although PTSD is. So I'm not sure which your psychiatrist is referring to. There is so much confusion between these two that one doctor proposed the label "developmental trauma disorder", or DTD. It is also sometimes referred to as Disorders of Extreme Stress Not Otherwise Specified, or DESNOS. Here is a link to more info regarding diagnoses - http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/PTSD-overview/complex-ptsd.asp

I have never had one nightmare that was depicting any traumatic event in my life; my dreams are as yours, symbolic but not specific. I have been diagnosed with ptsd and self-diagnosed with cptsd.
 
I'm sure others will also give their opinions! Thanks for joining us.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2016, 11:15:09 PM by Three Roses »

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Riverstar

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Re: CPTSD without memory flashbacks (only with emotional ones). Anyone else?
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2016, 11:46:08 PM »
Awesome! Great, I want a diagnosis. She said I had all the symptoms but because my nightmares and flashbacks weren't of specific memories and were just of being attacked basically (I frequently have dreams of people trying to kill me) that she couldn't diagnose me with PTSD. But if you're the same it must just be a difference in opinion.

Thanks for you reply :)

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Three Roses

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Re: CPTSD without memory flashbacks (only with emotional ones). Anyone else?
« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2016, 11:47:17 PM »
Think I'd ask for a second opinion, or new doc.  :whistling:

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sanmagic7

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Re: CPTSD without memory flashbacks (only with emotional ones). Anyone else?
« Reply #4 on: October 10, 2016, 12:45:20 AM »
i've never had a visual or audial flashback, nor have i ever dreamed of anything specific that's happened to me along the way.  as 3 roses said, symbolic dreams, yes, but reality based, no.

and, also, welcome!  glad you found us.  this forum has been so helpful to me, i don't have enough words.   that whole diagnosing thing, and shrinks/therapists who only go by the dsm book are sadly lacking in true information about this type of trauma, what it means, and what it does to people like us who have lived thru it.  so, best of luck with getting the diagnosis that will most help you get what you need.    read what you can, gather information to present to whoever is going to make a diagnosis.  you deserve to be treated for what is truly ailing you.

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meursault

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Re: CPTSD without memory flashbacks (only with emotional ones). Anyone else?
« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2016, 03:43:24 AM »
I've also never had a straight-forward literal flashback about the childhood stuff.  For the major trauma when my Dad died, I now often feel a crushing pressure of being trapped, and even small rooms can cause me to have this world smashing level of terror and disintegration, but I am not always directly aware of the night with my Dad at the times that happens.  That's a recent (ish) shock trauma, the developmental ones are much more murky still.  Being teased utterly overwhelms me, for instance, which came from that childhood stuff, but it's so distant and sublimated.  All the childhood stuff has led to terror, panic, self-loathing, worthlessness, disintegration, but the actual memories are such a part of me, I don't feel much distress when I think of them.

For what it's worth, I have been diagnosed with PTSD a dozen times, and c-PTSD once, and have never even been asked about flashbacks, much less how literal they are. 

I'm guessing it's like this for lots of others, but there are likely lots of people who have very vivid re-experiencings, too.  I wonder if the cultural understanding comes mainly from Hollywood with this.  The whole "Vietnam vet hears a car backfire, and is back in the jungle" sort of thing.

Meursault
« Last Edit: October 10, 2016, 04:03:30 AM by meursault »

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writetolife

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Re: CPTSD without memory flashbacks (only with emotional ones). Anyone else?
« Reply #6 on: October 10, 2016, 04:33:19 AM »
Hello,

Yes, this is my exact situation, too.  I can't be officially diagnosed because my flashbacks/nightmares aren't something that are officially recognized by the DSM.  And yet I've been having flashbacks every day or two for who knows how long...

It's frustrating and invalidating, isn't it?  And you can't take a diagnosis to your employer, school, etc, and say "you have to give me special accommodation." 

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movementforthebetter

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Re: CPTSD without memory flashbacks (only with emotional ones). Anyone else?
« Reply #7 on: October 10, 2016, 05:11:34 AM »
Funny Meursault should mention Vietnam vets... This may possibly be triggering for veterans or just in general for describing the experiences of trauma. In The Body Keeps The Score, the difference between PTSD and C-PTSD is made clear.


Regarding PTSD:

"When we gave the Rorschach test to twenty-one additional veterans, the response was consistent: Sixteen of them, on seeing the second card, reacted as if experiencing a wartime trauma. The second Rorschach card is the first card that contains colour and often elicits so-called colour-shock in response."

And:

"We learned from these Rorschach tests that traumatized people have a tendency to superimpose their trauma on everything around them and have trouble deciphering whatever is going on around them. There appeared to be little in between. We also learned that trauma affects the imagination. The five men who saw nothing in the blots had lost the capacity to let their minds play. But so, too, had Rhea other sixteen men, for in viewing scenes from the past in those blots they were not displaying the mental flexibility that is thaw hallmark of imagination. They simply kept replaying an old reel."
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"Being traumatized means continuing to organize your life as if the trauma were still going on - unchanged and immutable - as every new encounter or event is contaminated by the past."
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"These reactions are irrational and largely outside people's control."
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Regarding the difference between PTSD and C-PTSD:

"People like Marilyn and Kathy, as well as the patients Judy and I had studied, and the kids in the outpatient clinic at MMHC that I described in chapter 7, do not necessarily remember their traumas (one of the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis) or at least are not preoccupied with specific memories of their abuse, but the continue to behave as if they were still in danger."




Alsob by way of my personal experiences, never diagnosed, and have no image flashbacks of childhood trauma, but did have some for adult traumas.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2016, 05:15:52 AM by movementforthebetter »

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Butterfly

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Re: CPTSD without memory flashbacks (only with emotional ones). Anyone else?
« Reply #8 on: October 10, 2016, 11:01:41 AM »
Exactly, yes. Emotional flashback only, nightmares very cryptic but solidly grounded in real life experiences when I started to examine things.

"do not necessarily remember their traumas (one of the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis) or at least are not preoccupied with specific memories of their abuse, but the continue to behave as if they were still in danger" this exactly. I didn't even recognize my childhood or current situation as abusive - emotionally enmeshed and suffocatingly controlled through passive aggressive attacks or verbal rages for noncompliance even as an adult.

If you need a diagnosis for specific purpose (school, employment) then it might be good to keep searching for the right doctor or else help educate the current doctor. If a diagnosis of ptsd is sufficient to get an official diagnosis for accommodations wouldn't it hurt to just leave it at that?

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Riverstar

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Re: CPTSD without memory flashbacks (only with emotional ones). Anyone else?
« Reply #9 on: October 11, 2016, 12:17:38 AM »
Exactly, yes. Emotional flashback only, nightmares very cryptic but solidly grounded in real life experiences when I started to examine things.

If you need a diagnosis for specific purpose (school, employment) then it might be good to keep searching for the right doctor or else help educate the current doctor. If a diagnosis of ptsd is sufficient to get an official diagnosis for accommodations wouldn't it hurt to just leave it at that?

Great, it's good to know other people are the same. I think I'll look for another psychiatrist then. I didn't get a diagnosis - not sure if that's what you meant? She just sent me away, told me I don't have PTSD (and didn't suggest any alternatives) even though she said I had everything but the specific memory flashbacks. I don't really need the diagnosis exactly, but I thought it might be helpful in the future if I need to show/tell people and it's also validating (which is maybe not the reason I should want it).

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meursault

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Re: CPTSD without memory flashbacks (only with emotional ones). Anyone else?
« Reply #10 on: October 11, 2016, 12:54:41 AM »
I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting it recognized/validated.  I find people are constantly telling me how much worse it could be , quit complaining, get over it, and that sort of thing, especially my family. I constantly feel a huge sense of INvalidation from people, and because of my childhood, where mistreatment was normal and "right", and I was seen as deserving to suffer, having it recognized how this stuff hurt me was and is important.

In a way, it's having people say: "I accept you are in pain.  This wasn't your fault.  Your failings are human and would have happened to anyone dealing with that, it's not a failure of your character."

It might help you accept some stuff about yourself, too, like it did me, when you don't feel you are always on the defensive with people thinking you're just over-reacting or too sensitive.

I'm only barely able to feel like I'm allowed to call what happened to me as a kid abuse, for instance.  It feels so attackable.  Like "How DARE I think I'm allowed to think I didn't deserve everything that happened?!!!"  And yet, if I envision another kid going through that, I can see it for the * it was.  I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting or needing your experience accepted and validated.  It's maybe even crucial in some ways.

Without understanding this as PTSD and c-PTSD, I would always be baffled by how I completely fall to pieces inside when around attractive women, so having a structure to understand this stuff can be really helpful too. 

Meursault

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sanmagic7

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Re: CPTSD without memory flashbacks (only with emotional ones). Anyone else?
« Reply #11 on: October 12, 2016, 05:02:28 PM »
if you can label it abuse when envisioning another kid going thru what you went thru, it's abuse to you, too.  none of us are any better or worse as kids, we're just kids!  we think like kids, act like kids, screw up like kids, reason like kids, and have the logic of kids.  we're not 'little adults' in any way, shape, or form. 

riverstar, i've never been formally diagnosed with c-ptsd, but when i read about the symptoms, and they fit me so well, i diagnosed myself, found this forum, and discovered so many others who are going thru the same struggles as me that it has left no doubt in me of my diagnosis.  this forum has validated me, and i'm truly grateful for that.  the diagnosis of c-ptsd has to come from a professional who is willing to look outside the box of the dsm, but the dsm is the law when it comes to a diagnosis for the insurance companies (at least in the u.s.).  sometimes,  in order for insurance to pay for our therapy, we might have to accept a different 'diagnosis'.  there's so much ignorance out there, so much bureaucracy going on that it can be difficult to navigate the waters.  i do hope you find someone who is aware of c-ptsd, and is willing to go the extra mile to help you get what you need.

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Butterfly

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Re: CPTSD without memory flashbacks (only with emotional ones). Anyone else?
« Reply #12 on: October 13, 2016, 01:56:20 PM »
Personally i had better success with a counselor and phycologist than with psychiatrist. For me i didnt need anyone to tell me what i have and there is no one in my life to share it wirh outside dh and he is validating. At least there was someone in my life to validate. Honestly most of my validation came from here on oots and also ootf so i understand wanting and needing validation. Its probably worse having a dr disagree with what you know is true.