Is Complex PTSD a Disability

Is Complex PTSD a Disability?

Get Answers and Support Programs for Complex Trauma

Mental illness, trauma, and disability are debilitating conditions on their own, but if you have complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD), you may be dealing with all three at once.

Conditions like CPTSD lead to symptoms that make it difficult to function independently, socially, and professionally. You may have a hard time working, going to school, or even leaving your house, which makes it hard to support yourself.

Fortunately, the Social Security Administration has disability programs that can help you support yourself – as long as your condition is considered a disability. But is complex PTSD a disability, and how is it diagnosed?

If these questions are on your mind, you have arrived at the right resource! Icarus Behavioral Health can help you get the treatment and diagnosis you need to pursue disability benefits and provide PTSD treatment that makes it easier to cope with the effects of your condition.

Keep reading to learn more about CPTSD, disability benefits, and how Icarus can help you regain control of your life!

What is Complex PTSD?

What is Complex PTSD

CPTSD is a relatively uncommon mental disorder that is caused by extended periods of trauma, generally starting from childhood but also developing towards the beginning of early adulthood in some cases. It often results from abuse or neglect over multiple years that leaves a lasting impact on your brain and causes you ongoing emotional distress that can appear at any time.

Although it does not yet have an official listing in the DSM-V (the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) the symptoms are often diagnosed under PTSD and can be supportive of disability claims in many cases. We will delve more deeply into this as the article continues.

In some cases, complex post-traumatic stress disorder can be disabling and limit your ability to do everyday and major life activities like attending school or going to work. However, everyone’s experience with CPTSD is different.

What Causes CPTSD?

Trauma is at the core of complex post-traumatic stress disorder, but the severity of the trauma, the amount of time you were exposed to it, and your age all play a role in whether you will develop CPTSD.

In many cases, adverse childhood events contribute to the development of complex PTSD symptoms as adults later in life. The memory of a stressful, emotional, or dangerous experience that you had regularly can stick in the back of your mind and pop back up when something makes you think about it again.

Some examples of scenarios that can cause complex PTSD as a child include:

  • Witnessing a family member die unexpectedly
  • Living in poverty without your essential needs being met
  • Physical and emotional child abuse
  • Substance abuse or mental disorders impacting your family unit

Generally, the longer these situations lasted or the younger you were when they happened, the more probable they can cause childhood trauma.

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The Development of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Complex PTSD can also develop in adults who experience situations like:

  • Being abducted or held captive
  • Living in an active war zone
  • Continuous domestic violence
  • Becoming a victim of human trafficking
  • Experiencing a serious injury

Many other situations can cause complex PTSD that requires effective trauma treatment programs, so don’t discount your symptoms if you don’t relate to any of these examples.

How Is CPTSD Different from PTSD?

Anxiety Disorders

In addition to sharing most of their names, both PTSD and CPTSD are similar conditions stemming from trauma that you experience. They can produce anxiety disorders, depression, flashbacks, night terrors, and other symptoms that impact your quality of life and mental health. However, there are also some differences.

PTSD is generally a single traumatic event or a few traumatic events, like witnessing a fatal car accident or being assaulted. It’s also more likely to develop in adults than CPTSD because the trauma doesn’t need to be over a longer duration, and adults have more control over their environment than children.

CPTSD usually occurs during childhood and has a greater impact on mental and emotional development. It’s also believed to produce a heightened symptom burden due to the chronic stress that repeated traumatic events can cause over time, leading to longer-term symptoms from CPTSD like dissociation and increased tendencies to isolate.

What Does CPTSD Look Like?

CPTSD doesn’t have any single sign or symptom that is universally experienced, but there are some signs that you’re experiencing complex trauma. These signs and symptoms can range from invasive but manageable to severe and debilitating, which makes it hard to live your life.

In many cases, complex PTSD manifests as mental, emotional, behavioral, and interpersonal difficulties.

Common Mental Health Effects of Complex PTSD

Some of the most common symptoms of CPSTD are mental and may not always be visible to others. You might have lapses in your memory that relate to the period when you experienced trauma as your brain aims to protect you from upsetting memories. Flashbacks and nightmares are also common, especially in shorter-term but more severe traumatic events.

Knowing the Emotional Signs of CPTSD

CPTSD is an emotionally charged condition that changes the way you feel almost instantly when it triggers. The severity of the trauma can result in emotional outbursts of violence, sadness, guilt, or fear as your brain copes with the memory that causes you distress. In some cases, complex post-traumatic stress disorder is confused with borderline personality disorder due to the emotional fluctuation that occurs in both mental health disorders.

Alternatively, it can make your emotions duller and lead to depression as you attempt to cope with your PTSD symptoms.

Typical Behavioral Indicators of Complex PTSD

Everyone handles severe stress and trauma in a different way. If you’re suffering from complex PTSD, you’re at a higher risk of developing addictions due to leaning on coping mechanisms like drugs or alcohol. In this way, trauma and addiction are often interrelated. Hypersexuality, impulsivity, and risky behavior like reckless driving can also occur in response to the symptoms you experience.

Are You Suffering Interpersonal Issues Relating to CPTSD?

Many causes of trauma relate to experiences you had with others that molded your understanding of relationships. Domestic violence where one parent is abusive to the other regularly can lead to inappropriate relationships with partners, unreasonable fear of your partner leaving you, or avoiding relationships altogether.

It’s also normal for CPTSD to make you untrusting of strangers and antisocial as a way to avoid reminders of your traumatic events.

How PTSD Affects Your Daily Life

PTSD Affects Your Daily Life

Complex PTSD is a chronic condition that doesn’t impact everything you do, but exists in the background of your mind. It can come out when negative thoughts or memories arise or are triggered, which may cause you to act out, experience intense anxiety, or shut down emotionally.

The most significant impact that complex post-traumatic stress disorder has on your daily life is its impact on emotional regulation. There are a lot of stressors at work and school that can cause flashbacks to be triggered and cause intense emotional reactions. When these occur, it often becomes hard to focus on your tasks, more difficult to communicate, and sometimes can even force you to leave the situation to recover.

Trouble sleeping due to nightmares can also make it harder for you to maintain a schedule due to lateness, which may stunt your professional growth or interfere with your education.

In addition to emotional regulation issues, the symptoms you experience can force you to avoid triggers and be mindful of things that can cause CPTSD to appear again. This limitation will affect what you can do in your spare time, professionally, or in relationships.

What Is Considered a Disability?

A disability is a physical or mental impairment that impacts your ability to complete certain tasks or live independently. You may have impaired cognitive function, mobility, senses, or general health that limits what you’re able to do, including work or school.

But, not all disabilities have a significant impact on your functioning, and some only affect certain aspects of your life.

A Few Examples of Disabilities

Disabilities come in a wide range of types and severity, so it’s hard to know exactly what a disability is. It may be something clear or entirely hidden, which is why disabilities are categorized by the Social Security Administration in their Blue Book.

Some disabilities you may be familiar with are:

  • Blindness
  • Down Syndrome
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Loss of a limb
  • Epilepsy
  • Traumatic brain injuries

Each of these conditions impacts day-to-day life, but to varying degrees. But is complex PTSD a disability recognized by the government?

Is CPTSD A Disability?

CPTSD is Considered A Disability

Complex PTSD’s status as a disability is contradicted by two of the major resources used by medical professionals. The short answer is yes, CPTSD is considered a disability because of its similarity to post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a handbook used as an authoritative guide for diagnosing mental health conditions. The current DSM, DSM-5, doesn’t recognize CPTSD as a distinct condition like PTSD.

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) system is a globally implemented standard for recording health information. In the most modern revision, ICD-11, complex PTSD is recognized as a diagnosis.

However, PTSD is recognized as a diagnosis in each resource. So, in many cases, complex post-traumatic stress disorder is treated similarly to PTSD in regards to qualifying it as a disability legally.

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Does Complex PTSD Qualify You for Disability Income?

Yes, as a disability, CPTSD can qualify you for disability income if you’re unable to work. However, simply having a disability doesn’t mean you will be deemed eligible to receive payments from the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs.

Is Complex PTSD a Disability: The Requirements for Earning Disability Income

Collecting disability income requires you to prove that CPTSD is impairing your ability to support yourself. It’s meant to help people who mentally or physically cannot work in any capacity that would allow them to live on their income alone.

To file for disability benefits, you will likely need:

  • Medical records documenting the cause of your condition and medical treatment you have received for it
  • A comprehensive list of symptoms and impairments that CPTSD causes you
  • A report on the impacts that your symptoms have on your ability to perform reasonable work responsibilities

Even with all of the required proof, you can still be rejected for lack of information, a lack of treatment history, or not attempting recognized treatments that are available before filing. Or, you may be denied without a clear reason and need to file an appeal.

What Jobs Can Someone With CPTSD Do?

CPTSD is a disability, but it’s not always completely debilitating. There are no jobs that you cannot do if you have complex PTSD, but some will be easier. Many people who have this condition are still capable of working – you just have to find a job that accommodates your specific limitations.

If social interaction is hard for you, online work like freelancing, customer service, or creating your own business are viable jobs that don’t require a lot of face-to-face communication and give you plenty of room to cope with your symptoms in your home.

If you have auditory sensitivities, a library job or night shift can help you stay comfortable while working. You may also enjoy pet sitting or dog walking if you’re an animal lover, with the added benefit of pet therapy helping with PTSD symptoms.

4 Effective Treatments for Complex PTSD Offered at Icarus

Medication Management

Regardless of how CPTSD is classified or if you’re eligible for disability benefits, one thing remains true: you need to receive treatment for your condition.

Unfortunately, CPTSD isn’t a completely curable disease. But, with the right help, you can improve your coping skills and quality of life and put the most troublesome symptoms into remission.

Here’s what you can expect when you go to our rehab or mental health treatment center for CPTSD support.

1) Medication Management

Medication-assisted therapy is a staple of treating most mental disorders, including complex PTSD.

Drugs like serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can help to improve co-occurring conditions like borderline personality disorder, depression, and anxiety that are made worse by complex post-traumatic stress disorder, giving you more stability to curb the intensity of symptoms. You may also be given sleep medication to help you overcome the insomnia that accompanies some cases of CPTSD.

2) Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

Therapy is the most widely used treatment for coping with symptoms of complex post-traumatic stress disorder. Cognitive processing therapy is a specific type of individual therapy that is similar to cognitive-behavioral therapy, but tailored for people who suffer from PTSD and CPTSD.

As part of CPT, you’ll learn how to analyze your thoughts and process them without reacting emotionally. You may have recurring thoughts or memories that upset you, or you may be dealing with depression due to your condition and engaging negative self-perception. Therapy helps you identify when a thought is irrational, determine which emotions are valid, and let go of anything negative that increases symptom severity.

3) Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a form of talk therapy that helps you process your trauma in a different, less negative way by removing the emotion from the memory. During EMDR treatment, you’ll focus on a memory of a traumatic event you have that upsets you while watching an object move back and forth, creating bilateral stimulation. This stimulation activates more of your brain, including the logic center in the prefrontal cortex, allowing you to feel less emotion when recalling a distressing traumatic event. The process is repeated until the memory no longer causes an intense emotional response, limiting the trigger’s impact.

4) Group Therapy

Group Therapy

Group therapy is used as an accessible but effective form of talk therapy that focuses on building social skills, hearing other perspectives, getting tips for coping with CPTSD, and reminding you that you’re not alone. You’ll be able to talk to others who are going through a similar experience and can understand the struggles that complex PTSD can cause. It’s also beneficial for meeting others who can become a part of your support network so you can help each other cope with the day-to-day challenges you face.

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Get Your Complex PTSD Diagnosis and Treatment at Icarus

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder is treatable at Icarus, and we offer proven support to overcome a condition that impacts all elements of your life. While not officially recognized unanimously as a disability, CPTSD is generally treated as a variation of the recognized disability PTSD. You may be eligible for disability benefits if your condition seriously limits your ability to work and support yourself, but it’s not always easy to obtain.

Whether you’re looking to pursue receiving financial assistance or just need help coping with your condition, Icarus Behavioral Health can get you started.

Icarus helps you get the resources and treatment you need to live with complex PTSD. As part of their holistic treatment plans, you’ll learn coping skills and participate in both individual and group therapy to help you process your emotions more effectively.

After completing your treatment program, they’ll also help establish aftercare and help you prepare any documentation that you need to file for disability if your condition prevents you from working.

Let our caring team at Icarus Behavioral Health make it simpler to live with your complex PTSD. Reach out to a care coordinator today for a confidential call, and get proven support options now!



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