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C-PTSD or Complex post traumatic stress disorder occurs when someone is repeatedly traumatized (ie. in war, abused for long periods of time, etc) and it can make relationships and life afterward very difficult. They state that those who suffer from complex PTSD have more issues with:
1. Emotion regulation
2. Forgetting traumatic events completely
3. Self-perception (feel very ashamed and guilty for struggling with this and not feeling “okay” like everyone else).
4. Distorted perceptions of their perpetrators
5. Relations with others (they may isolate or struggle to trust people)
6. Their own sense of meaning (may feel hopeless and struggle to have faith).
The treatment is pretty much the same as it is for PTSD, however there is an intense focus on interpersonal difficulties. They focus on this because those with repeated trauma have more trouble trusting, not lashing out, feeling safe, and managing their feelings of shame and guilt.
Now BPD or borderline personality disorder is a pervasive disorder where we can show patterns of instability in our relationships, struggles with self image, and impulsivity. In order to be diagnosed with BPD you must have 5 of the following 9 criteria:
1. Fear of abandonment 2. Unstable relationships 3. Unstable sense of self. 4. Impulsive, self-destructive behaviors 5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats or self injurious behavior. 6. Extreme emotional/mood swings 7. Chronic feelings of emptiness
8. Inappropriate or intense & explosive anger
9. Feeling suspicious of people or out of touch with reality (severe dissociative symptoms).
By simply going through the 2 diagnosis you can see how much symptom overlap there is. Therefore many people get misdiagnosed with BPD when it should be PTSD and visa versa. Also, many people could meet the criteria for both diagnosis (recent studies show that 24% of those with PTSD also had BPD & 30% of those with BPD also had PTSD).
So let’s get into the main differences between the 2:
1. BPD does not require a traumatic event to be diagnosed and C-PTSD does.
2. The treatment plan for C-PTSD is to focus on healing or processing through the traumatic event(s) while BPD’s goal is to resolve any injurious urges and learn how to better manage our emotions.
3. While both diagnosis do show symptoms of emotion dysregulation, they are expressed very differently. In C-PTSD it is expressed through emotional sensitivity, reactive anger and poor coping skills (alcohol or drug abuse, etc). BPD on the other hand while it may show some of those signs, it’s much more common for someone with BPD to struggle with suicidal thoughts and self injurious behavior when experiencing emotional dysregulation.
4. In BPD most patients do experience some fear of abandonment, and that is not part of any criteria associated with PTSD.
I could honestly go on and on about the difference and similarities, but the important thing to remember is that only YOU know your symptoms best. Keep track of them, bring that information into your next appt with your therapist or doctor. That way we can ensure that you are getting the treatment that is right for you. Because as I just mentioned, the goals of treatment for BPD versus C-PTSD are very different, and therefore we need to make sure our diagnosis fits. Also, if you are worried that you struggle with BPD please look into Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and if you are concerned you may have PTSD please look into seeing a trauma specialist.
Link to one of the research articles:
Trauma treatment videos:
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