Complex trauma and diagnostic implications

Prolonged exposure to multiple traumatic events of an interpersonal nature, particularly during development, has shown psychological consequences and symptoms not included among the current diagnostic criteria of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These negative and chronic situations during childhood and adolescence provide further evidence of the existence of a psychopathological syndrome associated with complex (dis)adaptations to a number of traumatic effects. The absence of a cohesive and reliable diagnosis for these patients negatively affects symptom identification and treatment planning. The aim of the present study was to review the definition of trauma, presenting the concept of complex trauma and investigating its clinical implications and the diagnostic categories deriving from this construct. Important questions are raised about differences between complex trauma and PTSD, followed by an investigation of PTSD symptoms and comorbid disorders, as well as the limitations of PTSD diagnosis. Taking into consideration the psychopathological impact associated with complex trauma, the article discusses the possibility of including a new diagnostic category in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is discussed, as part of the spectrum of post-traumatic psychopathologies.

Post-traumatic stress disorders; psychopathology; psychological stress; cumulative trauma disorders


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