Tag Archives: Complex PTSD

Flashbacks

A few days ago, I read an article on complex PTSD symptoms. I don’t have a diagnosis of coplex or regular PTSD and I realize there’s a lot of overlap with borderline personality disorder traits, which I do have a diagnosis of. Of course, I used to have a PTSD diagnosis, but that was removed because I did not have flashbacks that often. At least, that’s what I thought. One symptom after all that I completely relate to in this list, is having emotional flashback.

I never knew emotional flashbacks are a recognized symptom. I just thought they were covered under the umbrella of emotional regulation difficulties, which is a hallmark BPD symptom. As such, I usually saw complex PTSD as BPD when the person was believed to have been seriously traumatized. If a person was believed to just have had a few negative experiences, then they’d be diagnosed BPD. In my experience at least, the BPD diagnosis was used to deny I had been traumatized.

I don’t want to diagnose myself, of course, but the emotional flashback thing really struck a chord with me. Ever since I was a teen, I’ve experienced what I used to call “time shifting”. In a “time shifting” episode I’d have a kind of déjá vu experience. Usually, this was coupled with feelings of floatiness or unreality. The mental health term for this is depersonalization.

An emotional flashback is what it’s called when a person relives the feelings of past trauma. Boy, do I relate to this. Usually, I do have a slight inkling that I am transported back in time emotionally, but not always. I experience an intense feeling of helplessness, fear or sometimes despair.

Another type of flashbacks are visual flashbacks, when you experience the traumatic event as if you’re reliving it. I don’t have these often, although I’d readily trade an emotional flashback for a visual one. At least, with visual flashbacks, I can give words to what I’m re-experiencing and thereby desentisize myself.

Somatic flashbacks, I’m not sure I have. After all, most trauma I endured didn’t leave physical damage. I mean, I do have “weird” physical symptoms, but I’m assuming these are just from mental stress and aren’t direct relivings of a traumatic experience.

Like I said, most of my trauma was emotional or psychological. I usually think this doesn’t “count”, as most people when describing trauma, describe sexual or physical abuse. I didn’t endure much of this and, as far as I know, it didn’t leave me with major post-traumatic symptoms.

I did, however, describe the few incidents of physical and sexual trauma when I was asked about trauma by the psychologist who diagnosed me with PTSD. This is just easier to grasp. When I say a person hit me or threatened to rape me, it’s understandable it was abuse. Then agian, these incidents were few and far apart. For instance, the person threatening to rape me was practically a stranger and it was a single incident that had no connection to the ongoing trauma I endured.

This ongoing trauma left psychological wounds and I endure almost-daily emotional flashbacks of it. That being said, both the flashbacks and the traumatic experience itself are influenced by my interpretation. As such, it might be it wasn’t “real” trauma, but in my BPD mind, I interpret it as such.</P.

Psychiatric Diagnoses I’ve Been Given

I just checked out the “30 days of mental illness awareness” challenge and was inspired to write a timeline of my mental health. Then I realized I already wrote it in 2015. Another question in the 30-day challenge though is what you’re currently diagnosed with. Seriously, I don’t know what exactly my current diagnosis is. I know what the university hospital psychologist diagnosed me with, but I am not sure the psychiatrist at my current community treatment team agrees.

I’ve had a lot of diagnoses in the past. I’ve had even more suggested diagnoses that never made it into my file. Today, I will write a list of the diagnoses I’ve had. I will comment on them too.

1. Autism spectrum disorder. I was first diagnosed with this twice in 2007, then again in 2010. I lost my diagnosis in 2016 and was rediagnosed in 2017. This is the only diagnosis I’m pretty sure of that I agree with 100%. It’s the only diagnosis that I’ve been given through a proper evaluation (several, in fact).

2. Adjustment disorder. This was my diagnosis upon admission to the mental hospital in 2007. I didn’t meet the criteria for depression or any other serious mental health condition but needed care anyway. I was at the time fine with that diagnosis and think the crisis team psychiatrist who made it, did a pretty good job of assessing me.

3. Impulse control disorder NOS. I was never told why I got this diagnosis. I just found it on my treatment plan in May 2008. Probably, it was a replacement for the adjustment disorder, which you can only have for six months once the stressor that caused it goes away. I never agreed with this diagnosis and didn’t really take it all that seriously.

4. Dissociative identity disorder. This was diagnosed in November of 2010 and was probably the most controversial diagnosis I’ve ever had. I wasn’t properly assessed for it and my psychologist at the time took what I told her almost at face value. I never believed deep down that I met the full criteria for this. I mean, yes I do have alters and I do have pretty bad dissociative symptoms sometimes, but amnesia is the exception. I find this terribly hard to admit but I do have to acknowledge this diagnosis was in part based on (self-)suggestion. I do believe, like I said, that I have some dissociative symptoms.

5. Post-traumatic stress disorder. I got this diagnosis together with the DID. I don’t really know why. I mean, yes, I did (and still do) have some symptoms, but I’m not sure I have nough and I never reported more than I actually had. I did get some assessment for this. I do currently believe I definitely do have some PTSD symptoms, particularly complex PTSD symptoms. Then again, there is a lot of overlap with borderline personality disorder traits.

6. Borderline personality disorder. This was diagnosed in 2013 and replaced DID and PTSD. It was later “downgraded” to BPD traits. I do agree I have BPD traits, but I am more the quiet borderline type.

7. Dependent personality disorder. I was given this diagnosis in 2016. Never quite agreed with it, except in the sense that I could be led to believe I had every disorder that was ever suggested to me.

8. Depression. This was diagnosed in 2017 by the university hospital psychologist. I had previously been diagnosed with depressive disorder NOS, but that, according to my psychologist, was only because a diagnosis on axis I (anything other than a personality disorder) is required for treatment. I admit I was pretty badly depressed in the months that I had my assessment at the university hospital, but am not sure it was bad enough for a diagnosis. I mean, I didn’t meet the criteria in 2007, so how could I meet them in 2017? I’m assuming my current psychiatrist removed that diagnosis.

How I Feel About My Mental Health Diagnoses #Write31Days

31 Days of Mental Health

Welcome to day 6 of the 31 Days of Mental Health for #Write31Days. Today, I’m feeling very ill-inspired, so I checked out the 30 days of mental illness awareness master list. This is an awareness challenge in which mental health sufferers answer 30 questions about their experience of mental illness. I am going to combine day 1 and 2 of the challenge and share how I feel about the diagnoses I have been given over time.

The first mental health diagnosis I received was adjustment disorder. Okay, I received a diagnosis of autism before, but most mental health professionals do not consider this a mental illness and in truth, it isn’t. It’s a neurodevelopmental disorder.

I received the diagnosis of adjustment disorder upon my admission to the psychiatric hospital in 2007. An adjustment disorder basically means an extreme reaction to stress that doesn’t meet the criteria for any other mental disorder (eg. depression). Well, how could I not agree to thsi diagnosis? I was under a lot of stress from living independently and I reacted in an extreme way.

I was fortunate at the time that insurance still covered treatment for an adjustment disorder. It would do in my case under the current policy too, because I was suicidal, but many people with psychosocial problems related to even more severe stressors such as a life-threatening illness go untreated for their mental health problems.

As I said before, I then received a diagnosis of impulse control disorder NOS. I didn’t feel right about this diagnosis. It wasn’t that I didn’t agree I had impulse control issues, but I had so many more issues. Why not diagnose me with half a dozen other NOS disorders?

Years later, I was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (DID) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To be very honest, these never sat right with me. Though I did feel validated that I had some dissociative experiences, I felt I may not meet the full criteria for DID. I did have a lot of identity confusion and depersonalization/derealization (feelings of unreality), but I didn’t have a lot of identity alteration (switching to different personalities) till after my diagnosis and never quite had amnesia (memory loss). Okay, let me clarify this: I did have a sense of identity alteration long before my diagnosis, but I tried to never show it on the outside. That changed after my diagnosis. Now I feel I might have dissociative disorder NOS, but I don’t want to bring up my experiences again for fear of being told that I imagine it all.

That was, after all, exactly what happened after a few years. I went to a dissociative disorders support group, where the support group leader, herself a DID sufferer, eventually kicked me out. Her reason was that she felt I had an imaginary dissociative disorder. My new therapist, who changed my diagnosis to BPD, didn’t exactly go along with this, but she did say that BPD better explained my symptoms than DID.

With regard to PTSD, I never felt I had the full classic PTSD symptom presentation. Though I did and do have flashbacks and nightmares, they aren’t necessarily specific to the trauma I survived. This is possible in PTSD with young children but not adults. I also did experience emotional numbing but not avoidance of triggers. In fact, I was often drawn to triggers. I still am. I did and do however experience many symptoms of complex PTSD. Then again, these are similar to those of BPD.

In 2013, I was finally diagnosed with borderline persoanlity disorder. I almost instantly agreed I have it, but then again, I did with most conditions I’d been diagnosed with. I do still feel I meet enough criteria for a diagnosis, though I don’t exhibit as many classic BPD behaviors as I used to when first coming to my current institution. This is possibly related to my autistic difficulty adjusting to change.

PTSD Is…

I have been part of a writing/art group for PTSD sufferers for about a week now. A few days ago, one of the prompts was to describe what your particular experience of PTSD is like. Now I don’t have a diagnosis of PTSD anymore, but I do have symptoms of what could be complex PTSD, although it is currently diagnosed as borderline personality disorder. I have, however, experienced PTSD in the past and sometimes still experinece its symptoms.

Rather than writing a lengthy description of what PTSD is like for me, I’m going to sum it up in some bullet points.


  • PTSD is a constant feeling of being unsafe, wherever I go, with whomever I am. Even with my own husband I don’t feel fully safe. It is a constant feeling that someone, somehow, is going to hurt me any moment.

  • PTSD is not knowing about boundaries. Not respecting my own limits. It is constantly feeling pushed beyond my limits no matter how well-intentioned people are. It is overstepping my own boundaries then feeling violated by others.

  • PTSD is reliving the same few moments of my childhood over and over again. Some were among the worse of traumatic experiences, while others were simply the clearest or easiest to fathom.

  • PSD is intense isolation, feeling that no-one can relate to what it’s like to feel what I feel.

  • PTSD is having nightmares about the most insignificant of experiences yet feeling an intense fear about them. For example, having recurrent nightmares of high school graduation. Like, well, who doesn’t have these? At the same time, they scare the crap out of me.

  • PTSD is constant self-doubt. It is doubting my own experiences, my own feelings, my own qualities even. It is not just low self-esteem, but being clueless about who I am. And then, it is doubting whether these experiences are not just normal for everyone my age, my gender, my …

  • PTSD is having constant intrusive thoughts of experiences that I didn’t endure but could have.

  • PTSD is an inability to feel certain emotions. These could be positive, like joy, but also negeative, like sadness. It is expressing every strong emotion as anger.

  • PTSD is perceiving others as having total control over my life.

  • PTSD is being triggered by the slightest thing, yet being fascinated by these same triggers.

  • PTSD is constantly feeling on guard, on the edge, hypervigilant and anxious.

  • PTSD is intense psychological pain and emptiness at the same time.

In this list, I tried to cover all three symptom domains of regular PTSD – reliving the traumatic experience, avoidance or emotinal number and hypervigilance – as experienced by me. I also tried to cover some of the symptoms of complex PTSD, which include alterations in self-perception, perception of others, affect regulation, etc. For me the key symptom of PTSD is a constant feeling of being unsafe and on guard. For others, the relviing of the trauma or the avoidance of triggers might be the core symptom. Everyone’s PTSD experiaence is different.

The List