Adult Children from Dysfunctional Families Dealing with Emotions and C-PTSD

rain dance

This term “dysfunctional family” is a catch all basket term that includes a variety of types of malfunction within the family that can cause trauma and C-PTSD to the child.

Children of alcoholic parents fall into this category and even have their own phrase, which many of you have heard “Adult Children of Alcoholics.” Of course adult children of drug addicted parents, whether narcotic addicted or even prescription drug abusers also falls into this basket term.

The family can be dysfunctional when one or both of he parents are abusive in a physical, sexual, mental, emotional or any psychological way. Abuse can occur from other members of the family other than the parents. Even siblings and grandparents can cause the home to be unhealthy psychologically for the children growing up in it.

Some preteens ans teens are left alone most of the time due to a single parent work schedule and no other relative available. Having to parent yourself all the time can cause psychological dysfunction and important “brain software upgrades” can be missed at these ages. 

This may not be the parent’s fault and may be circumstantial but can be as devastating to the child than if it were intentional. The intention of the parent to be abusive or to create a psychologically damaging atmosphere to grow up in is not the main factor of whether or not the child is damaged.

If you were in any atmosphere that interfered with your normal social and psychological development them you may have C-PTSD from your childhood. C-PTSD is Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

C-PTSD is caused by years of being in various situations where you felt unsafe and you also felt trapped into the situation with no choice to leave it. 

As a child we are mostly sentenced to the life we are living in therefore there is a feeling of powerlessness about having to stay in the situation. It can feel like a prison.

If there was a divorce or other upheaval like moving a lot, then we may have been in multiple environments with different kinds of abuse, or trauma that happened at various ages and from various different people. This is the root cause of C-PTSD.

Complex trauma is built over time and compounded by one traumatic event or situation being piled on top of the next.

There can be years and years of traumatic experiences from emotional abuse by different relatives and non-relatives like babysitters and people that dated our parent. Moving and having to be the new kid at school and adjust to unfamiliar houses and neighborhoods can also be traumatic. 

Being different than the other kids at school who have more stable lives can lead to bullying at school, which further compounds the complex trauma.

As you were growing up you may have felt like there was something wrong with you because you never seemed to fit in with the other kids who did not share your trauma and inadequate support system.

The feeling that there was something wrong with you further compounded the trauma.

Love Yourself

As you got older the type of abuse you were exposed to probably changed. As a small child you may have been emotionally abused by being ignored and minimized. As a teenager the abuse may have increased to aggressive yelling. hitting, or being thrown out of the house for periods of time.

Layers of Abuse and Trauma

The combinations and layers of abuse, neglect, and trauma that can occur are endless. Each person has their own experience and each person’s past is unique. Your story won’t be just like anyone else’s.

If you feel like something is wrong with you and it feels like it goes back into your teenage years or your childhood, then you probably have complex post traumatic stress disorder. 

I am going to write a series of posts about C-PTSD because I feel that so many people are suffering from this and either do not know that they are, or have no where to turn to for help with it. The results of C-PTSD can be devastating. Most people with C-PTSD have mental illness of one kind or another or a co-morbid condition of more than one mental disorder. 

Depression is common with any kind post traumatic stress disorder. There will also be hyper vigilance about things that feel threatening.

The amygdala has become dysfunctional and the fight or flight mode is likely to turn itself on at the slightest trigger of a memory associated with earlier trauma, even of the trauma happened before your conscious memory can remember. 

Trauma and abuse can occur in infants and very small children.

The memory from this age cannot be stored in the conscious memory system. The memory will be stored in the subconscious as feelings of fear and being unsafe.

 There can be triggers that set of your fight or flight mode and you do not understand them because they are from when you were too young to remember. If you came from trauma that you do remember, it is very possible that there is also trauma that you do not remember that is from when you were an infant and in your toddler years. 

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Flashbacks are pictures, sights, sounds, feelings and other memories of a traumatic event or situation which come back to our brains like they are happening right now.

Emotional Flashbacks

Emotional flashbacks are a flooding of a negative feeling that overcomes you when something triggers a past trauma. Emotional flashbacks may come to you like anxiety attack or a wave of depression. They may come in form a sudden distrust of a person or situation that is triggering the memory of a past abuse.

Realizing that we may not remember all of the reasons why we experience floods of seemingly illogical emotions can help us to heal from our trauma.

We never feel things for no reason. People may tell you that you are overly sensitive or too thin skinned or that you tend to over-react to things, but you are none of those things.

If you are sensitive to people saying certain kinds of things to you, then it is a response to earlier wounds that were inflicted upon you. When old wounds are opened up and even pressed into, there is going to be an emotional response. This is no overreacting, it is simply reacting to someone throwing salt into an open wound.

Some of your wounds may have occurred too young for you to remember.

Some of your wounds may have caused during adulthood such as a partner being abusive. Even then this abuse was also probably opening older wounds that you already had.

Most people do not stay is abusive relationships unless they were trained to do that as a child. Abuse victims get that same feelings of being trapped into a cage that they had when they were growing up. 

Fight, Flight or Freeze

The fight or flight mode actually has one more possible part to it, which is the “freeze” mode. It is really “fight, flight or freeze.”

When we feel that we are in danger, especially if it triggers earlier trauma then the brain often goes into the freeze mode. This is a way of the brain trying to protect us although it may not serve us as adults. These post traumatic stress responses are very powerful because they are embedded in our subconscious. 

Our subconscious brain has a lot of power over our feelings and our reactions. In order to heal from complex trauma and post traumatic stress much of the work needs to be done at the level of the subconscious brain.

This can be done through meditation, certain NLP techniques, listening to audios designed for this that put us into a light hypnotic state. If you prefer you can go to someone who does hypnosis and specializes in C-PTSD and PTSD.

I will close for now because this is getting so long to read. I plan to write a few more articles about this topic. This was intended to the introductory article about this.

Blessings to all,

Annie

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ananonymousoutsider
    Sep 26, 2015 @ 15:24:02

    This sounds like a diagnosis that is closer than any that I have gotten. I’ll be diving into research soon. Thank you so much for posting this and raising awareness about it.

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply

    • gentlekindness
      Sep 27, 2015 @ 01:40:11

      I a glad this post was validating. Researching it more is a good idea. C-PTSD is not yet recognized by the DSM as a disorder. Some therapists and mental health professionals believe in it and recognize it and others do not.
      There are many people that suffer similar symptoms that come from these kinds of backgrounds.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  2. New Journey
    Sep 27, 2015 @ 02:49:27

    great post….thanks…

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  3. gentlekindness
    May 27, 2016 @ 10:29:33

    Reblogged this on GentleKindness .

    Like

    Reply

  4. Lady Quixote/Linda Lee
    May 28, 2016 @ 05:13:41

    Annie, you wrote: “Most people do not stay is abusive relationships unless they were trained to do that as a child. Abuse victims get that same feelings of being trapped into a cage that they had when they were growing up.”

    This is exactly what happened in my life.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • gentlekindness
      Jun 01, 2016 @ 08:47:15

      I know that “trapped in a cage” feeling all too well. They really do find ways to trap you. Some if it is perceived due to the brainwashing but they do use whatever they can to trap you into their lives with no reasonable way out ….and still survive…or to keep your children etc.

      It is always nice to hear from you. Thank you for visiting.
      Annie

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  5. Diana
    May 29, 2016 @ 07:38:33

    I wanted to add to the already excellant coverage you had on this subject. Hope you don’t mind.
    Repressed memories. These are memories you have no recollection of. So, a person could be asked, “were you ever abused?”, they could very likely answer ‘no’, being honest and truthful, without any awareness of those memories.
    Repressed memories and suppressed memories are two very different conditions.

    Repressed memories often (but not always) resurface when an alcoholic/addict goes into recovery. 75% of alcoholic/drug addict women were sexually abused. It is the number one reason why they relapse in early recovery. Drugs and alcohol suppress memories.
    Other events that can bring suppressed memories to the surface:

    *Death of their abuser (usually a family member or still in their circle of life)
    *Recovery from drugs or alcohol
    *Feeling safe. Maybe in a relationship that makes you feel safe
    *Your child reaches the age of when your abuse first occurred.
    *Your child experiences sexual abuse

    And more…….

    The resurfacing of suppressed memories is PTSD live and well! The flashbacks are fresh and NOT like dealing with those memories of your abuse you do remember. It feels like you are in that moment and it is happening in that moment. Much like PTSD veterans. They hear, feel, and even see the trauma as if it is happening in that moment. That is what suppressed memories do.

    In another time I was a Substance Abuse Counselor and have a Master’s Degree in Social Work. Trauma was and still is a subject I am passionate about. It is forever a subject that has endless information and many perspectives. Much of it left to mystery and I believe is still evolving to a point of fully understanding, with effective treatment solutions.
    (no time to edit this) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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