Complex PTSD affects the brain long-term and can affect your closest relationships

Complex PTSD is more common than you might think
Posted at 5:23 PM, Feb 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-02 17:23:19-05

You've probably heard of PTSD but have you ever heard of Complex PTSD?

That's when traumatic events, often from childhood, affect your brain long-term and can affect your closest relationships.

A health advocate spoke with Anchor Wendy Ryan about how to identify this kind of trauma and do something about it.

"There's often a lot of shame and stigma associated with trauma. But you know, the paradox is there's a lot of healing and storytelling and sharing and opening up," said Sara Church, who's an author and health advocate.

Church has experienced Complex PTSD firsthand and she explained some of the side effects of going through those traumatic childhood events.

"Symptoms often include flashbacks, nightmares and triggers or cues that remind you of the traumatic experience from the past," she explained.

That past unresolved trauma can cause a lifetime of damage to your health and well-being for both those suffering from it and the people around them.

"One can be difficulty dealing with emotions. A second thing can be like a diminished sense of worth, excessive shame and guilt. And the third common thing is difficulty sustaining relationships, or really feeling connected to others," Church said.

Complex PTSD is more common than you might think.

According to the CDC, 61% of U.S. adults have experienced at least one traumatic event in their life.

And, children growing up in a toxic environment are more likely to have difficulty in adult relationships. That unresolved trauma often comes out in other ways like with substance abuse, overeating, overworking, anxiety, difficulty sleeping and physical pain.

Sadly, many will then unintentionally pass along their trauma to others.

Church learned that the hard way during her marriage.

"When we had normal marriage challenges come up, I avoided dealing with them, and instead I walked out on my marriage. And that was a huge wake-up call for me personally, to figure out what is going on that's leading me to this pattern of not sustaining, you know, long-term relationships with great people," Church explained.

But she's learned from that and now has a combination of tools to help her stay healthy.

"So I have a toolbox now that I can A) Recognize what's happening, which is a big improvement from not even knowing or recognizing. And then B) Now, I know which tools to pull out of the toolbox," she said.

Church said healing from Complex PTSD can be helped by talking to a licensed mental health therapist, who specializes in trauma and seeking other treatments for trauma. That includes memory reprocessing like EMDR and ART or Accelerated Resolution Therapy, neurofeedback and wellness practices like writing and meditation.

You can also find more information and tips, by visiting

Church also wrote a new book called Mending My Mind. For more information on her and that book, visit