Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is likely a condition you’re familiar with because it’s often portrayed in films and television as a disorder that affects war veterans and trauma survivors of mental or physical abuse, death, violence, and natural disasters. Living with Complex PTSD (C-PTSD), on the other hand, is a unique diagnosis and condition. The severe, repetitive trauma that often occurs in childhood is more specifically what C-PTSD refers to.
Because they both have traumatic origins and can result in disturbing behaviors like insomnia, nightmares, and flashbacks, PTSD and C-PTSD may appear similar. Living with Complex-PTSD, however, is significantly different because it alters a person’s perspective entirely.
Let’s learn what Complex PTSD is and what Complex PTSD treatment plans are available.
What is PTSD?
Before understanding what Complex PTSD is, you need first to understand what PTSD is all about. PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder and has been known by various names, including shell shock and combat fatigue, and is arguably most known for affecting veterans. However, the disease can develop in people following any traumatic event, not only war.
Although we’re most likely familiar with PTSD as it pertains to war veterans, it can also impact victims of rape or other forms of assault, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and more.
People of any age, culture or nationality, ethnicity, or background can experience PTSD; it is not a condition specific to any individual. 3.5% of adults in the United States have PTSD, and one in 11 people is thought to develop the condition at some point in their lifetime. Additionally, women are twice as likely as men to develop PTSD.
Symptoms of PTSD include:
- having flashbacks or nightmares
- feeling anxious, fearful, sad, or anger
- avoiding situations that trigger memories of the traumatic events
- feeling estranged or detached from other people
Those who have PTSD will often experience these symptoms in the days after the traumatic event. Still, the symptoms must have persisted for longer than a month, and in some cases years, for it to be a formal PTSD diagnosis. Many people experience symptoms three months after the trauma; however, they can take longer.
The symptoms of PTSD significantly affect the daily lives of those who experience them. They could manifest simultaneously with other associated conditions, such as depression, substance abuse, memory issues, and other physical and mental health issues.
What is Complex PTSD?
According to studies, more than 3% of Americans are thought to be suffering from complex trauma, also known as complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). This percentage is comparable to that of people with traditional PTSD.
While C-PTSD only happens when someone has endured severe, recurring trauma over an extended period, PTSD can develop due to short-term exposure to a single traumatic event. Living with C-PTSD differs slightly from living with traditional PTSD.
Complex PTSD is a condition when you have certain PTSD symptoms as well as some additional symptoms, like:
- difficulties in emotional self-control
- feeling like no one can understand what happened to you
- feeling extremely angry or untrusting of the world
- feeling like you are permanently damaged or worthless
- the sensation of hopelessness or emptiness all the time
- feeling like you are different from other people
- avoiding or having great difficulty in relationships and friendships
- exhibiting dissociative symptoms like depersonalization or derealization regularly
Complex PTSD is a separate condition from PTSD and must be diagnosed correctly. Unfortunately, many health professionals mistake the condition for borderline personality disorder (BPD), as C-PTSD and BPD have similar symptoms.
As a result, even if complex PTSD better describes a person’s experiences, some individuals receive a diagnosis of BPD or another personality disorder.
A mental health practitioner should be consulted if you are concerned that the diagnosis you have been given does not accurately reflect how you are feeling. This will help ensure that you are receiving the best possible care.
What Causes C-PTSD?
A traumatic event causes the limbic system in the brain to become activated. This “alarm” deactivates all non-essential systems (relaxation, sleep, and digestion) and fills your body with stress hormones like cortisol to prepare for fight, flight, or freeze.
Your parasympathetic nervous system, sometimes known as your “rest and digest” mode, gives inner calm once the danger is gone.
During this time, the cognitive function returns to normal, and you can resume your day with minor side effects—you might feel a little shaky or on edge for a short while.
But this balance doesn’t restore fully for those dealing with C-PTSD.
The limbic system is mostly always activated. It is a way of coping to maintain safety in the face of continuous suffering. It’s a feeling of always being on edge or in survival mode, gradually establishing a new normal for the body and brain.
The following traumatic events can result in complex PTSD:
- childhood neglect, abuse, or abandonment
- being coerced or misled into prostitution
- regularly observing abuse or violence
- ongoing domestic abuse or violence
- human trafficking
- being a prisoner of war
- torture, kidnapping, or enslavement
You are likely to develop C-PTSD if:
- you experienced trauma as a young child
- the trauma continued for a very long time
- there was no chance of escape or rescue
- you’ve experienced many traumas
- someone close to you harmed you
Complex PTSD Treatment Plan
Several C-PTSD treatment options can reduce your symptoms and improve your ability to manage them.
These treatments include:
- Psychotherapy (talk therapy)
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
- Antidepressant medications
The fact that complex PTSD treatment is time-consuming is among the most important factors to remember. Trauma that has been building over time is difficult to break down quickly.
A fresh perspective and coping mechanisms must be developed to replace the remaining trauma’s effects once a therapist and patient have removed its influence. It is a process of gradual empowerment for the patient, preparing them for a long-term future of resilience and good health.
Using Stellate Ganglion Block for Complex PTSD
People with Complex PTSD may respond to many situations as though they were experiencing trauma. Depending on their trauma history, a person may be randomly triggered by a specific situation. These situations, sights, smells, interactions with people, and other things can all trigger someone.
The brain region known as the amygdala, which is in charge of processing emotions, can initiate a fight-or-flight reaction as a result of this stimulation. A person’s brain may believe they are in danger even when they are not when this occurs. This amygdala hijack can cause symptoms including flashbacks, nightmares, or being easily frightened.
The stellate ganglion, a group of nerves in the neck, is a section of the sympathetic nervous system that regulates how the amygdala is activated. The symptoms of Complex PTSD can be relieved in under an hour by applying an anesthetic drug to the stellate ganglion during a process known as a stellate ganglion block (SGB).
Similar to a pc reboot, a stellate ganglion block injection for PTSD reboots the sympathetic nervous system to its pre-trauma state. Norepinephrine levels in the brain are quickly lowered, and the excess nerve growth is removed. SGB is a low-risk anesthetic procedure performed using image guidance to ensure accuracy.
Stellate Ganglion Block PTSD How Long Does it Last?
According to an article by Anxiety.org, current PTSD treatments have success rates under 40% and might take months to years to work. Over the first nine years of use, the overall SGB success rates have ranged from 70% to 75%. In the article, the author has updated the SGB process with neuroscientists and clinical findings, leading to success rates in the 85% to 90% range.
Every patient is unique, and at SGB Docs, everyone experiences varied results. Because the Complex PTSD symptoms returned after the anesthesia wore off, some of our patients needed additional treatment. However, the treatment has been quite successful, with thousands of patients reporting immediate relief from their Complex PTSD symptoms.
While some C-PTSD patients get the relief that lasts for weeks, others need a series of injections to help with their C-PTSD symptoms. It may require two injections or even ten, but the duration of your relief will increase with each treatment you have.
It is crucial to understand that SGB does not cure Complex PTSD, although it can help manage the symptoms for an extended period.
Stellate Ganglion Block PTSD Side Effects
Stellate ganglion block PTSD side effects are rare, but as with all medical treatments, some side effects can occur.
Examples of potential SGB side effects include:
- Hoarse voice
- Difficulty swallowing
- Droopy eyelids
- Nasal congestion
- Warmth in the arm and a tingly sensation in the arm
- Pain in the injection site
These symptoms can last a few hours. Recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy is the most common side effect patients report having. The majority of complaints come from women who have weak neck muscles. Hemorrhage, infection, or nerve damage are more severe complications.
Following treatment, you must wait 24 hours before driving or engaging in strenuous activities. After 4 to 6 hours, you can start eating solid foods.
Stellate Ganglion Block Treatment Near Me
One of the benefits of C-PTSD treatment ganglion block SGB is that SGB Docs has multiple locations for treatment. Get treated for your Complex PTSD symptoms in one of these three states:
Our board-certified doctors at SGB Docs have over 40 years of combined experience and are waiting for your call! Contact us today for more information on SGB for Complex PTSD.