My partner has complex trauma and the lack of diagnosis affects me too

If your partner, friend or family member has complex trauma, the lack of formal a cPTSD diagnosis can affect you too.

There are several ways it may affect you:

  • Medical and mental health practitioners may not recognize it.
  • It can make it hard to explain to friends and find support.
  • It creates a burden of having to find information, understand it, and then look for help.
  • Without cohesive information and common language, it can create stress in your relationship with the person who is suffering.
  • In order to access care or insurance, you might need to work around the real issues by getting other diagnoses.
  • No formal diagnosis means treatment is often inadequate or worse case, harmful.
  • Disability employment insurance can be harder to get.
  • The financial and emotional cost of self-education is huge.
  • Not having a formal diagnosis contributes to stigma.
  • All of this and more can contribute to increased feelings of shame, self-blame and fear, which often leads to an exacerbation of symptoms and sometimes, more trauma.

This list is off the top of my head so I am sure you can think of more. The point is – not having a diagnosis, common language, accessible and appropriate treatment services based on the diagnosis, and cohesive information about complex trauma and treatment impacts us all.


Several studies across multiple samples have provided evidence of a distinction between the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and CPTSD.

Manuel P Stadtmann, PhD. Contributing researcher for inclusion of cPTSD in International Classification of Diseases-11.


Complex trauma incorporates all the symptoms of PTSD. CPTSD is different, however, from single-incident trauma because the impact on the nervous system around attachment or relationships becomes more deeply ingrained. CPTSD is relationship trauma.

Robyn E Brickel, MA, LMFT. How is CPTSD Different from PTSD?


Complex trauma and loved ones

These reasons and more are why I include the section The Context of Complex Trauma in my downloadable book Strengthening You: A guide to build, strengthen and support the emotional resources of those who care for persons with complex trauma. I want everyone to understand how the context of missing language may affect you. Most importantly, I want you to be able to offer yourself compassion, kindness and care given the bigger picture of complex trauma.

I have also had the privilege of highlighting clinicians on my blog who are invested in communicating, creating, researching, and providing information and help to those who have complex trauma and their loved ones.

For now, if you are wondering how the lack of formal diagnosis and subsequent language affects you, please take a moment to swipe through these slides.

As a reminder, please remember to be kind to yourself given the context of complex trauma. The missing diagnosis may be affecting you than you know.


Interviews about complex trauma/cPTSD

Complex PTSD and the need for better family support – with Manuel P Stadtmann, PhD
7 Reasons I am excited to tell you about Trauma Chat podcast – with Laura Reagan, LCSW-C, CDWF
The importance of relationships for healing complex trauma – with Yvette Lalonde & Andrea Papin
Complex PTSD, family strain & estrangement – with Annie Wright, LMFT