Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD), Highly Sensitive People (HSP), and Similarities to Gifted Children
PSYCHOLOGY & MENTAL HEALTH
Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD), Highly Sensitive People (HSP), and Similarities to Gifted Children
When properly diagnosed and with an accurate description of the rocky landscape of Complex PTSD, there is much relief and healing available to those who suffer.
By Mark Zuleger-Thyss
Emotions can be overpowering, and not knowing why or being able to point to any specific memory or mental health issue is one of the most disorienting and frightening aspects of Complex PTSD.
Core Beliefs of a Person with Complex PTSD
The symptoms of Complex PTSD that can manifest are as varied as those who suffer from this condition. One fundamental belief that many individuals with CPTSD hold is that they are essentially fatally flawed. And because of their brokenness, they are undeserving of anything.
This core belief tells us we are not worth 'the bother.' Such a belief makes us accept the minimum of what's available. At the very least, this core belief makes it difficult to face conflict. The script in our heads says we are not worthy of our parents' love; therefore, we are not respected or deserving. It is the core belief that we are worthless, entirely without value.
Other underlying mental health issues can come into play, exacerbating the situation, such as borderline personality disorder, schizoid adaptations, and depersonalization. Even more confusing for the sufferer is when they are categorized as Highly Sensitive People (HSP) or, per the author, Alice Miller's designation, a Gifted Child.
The Highly Sensitive Person
High sensitivity can be defined as acute physical, mental, and emotional responses to external or internal stimuli, and yet this does not mean being highly sensitive has no benefits. People with HSP may feel pain more strongly, but also joy more fully.
Highly sensitive people experience more frequent and intense negative emotions and lower well-being than others. They report lower self-esteem and reduced life satisfaction and are at a greater risk of developing mental health problems like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
There is new research on the emotions of highly sensitive people regarding sensory processing sensitivity and reactivity.
Sensory processing sensitivity concerns differences in how we perceive and respond to stimuli. Highly sensitive people (HSP) process sensory data deeply and experience strong emotional reactions. HSP individuals appear to react more intensely to negative, but not positive events.
Sensory processing sensitivity is considered a temperament or personality trait with four components:
- Strong emotional reactions.
- Deep processing of sensory data.
- Enhanced awareness of environmental subtleties.
- Great susceptibility to overstimulation.
When comparing one child to other siblings, who grew up in the same stressful and invalidating family environment, a sensitive person is likelier to show higher levels of anxiety and depression.
High Sensitivity & High Giftedness
Different definitions of giftedness exist, but professionals generally use multi-factor models. Giftedness is not a trait, but a specific ability that leads to gifted behavior. According to these theories, a person is highly gifted with tremendous creativity, high intelligence (IQ> 130), and a particular motivation.
Creativity in a person goes beyond just being creative, like painting, creating art, or baking cakes. For many gifted individuals, creativity also expresses itself in language, in word jokes, and in coming up with original solutions to problems. The strength of a gifted person is their ability to encourage creative thinking.
The Drama of the Gifted Child, the famous book by author Alice Miller, is a resource many therapists who work with children consult frequently.
Gifted children tend to be more intelligent, sensitive, and emotionally aware than other children, and they can be so attuned to their parents' expectations that they ignore their feelings and needs.
In becoming an ideal child, they lock away their true feelings in a safe, the key to which is either hidden or thrown away.
According to Miller, these gifted children stop growing. Because the child cannot develop and differentiate his/her true self, they feel empty, emotionally isolated, and "homeless." In later adulthood, the child who has always tried to please his parents constantly looks to others for approval.
Feelings are Your Superpowers! Access them to control them
Emotions are always with us – they don't have an on-and-off switch. How people feel affects how they navigate their existence.
Feelings aren't factual; they are not even real. They are only energy that needs to move.
Your feelings arise in an emotional state of mind. You can feel senseless, rash, stupid, ridiculous or ugly, but that doesn't mean you are.
The trick is to allow your feelings to exist and be okay with them, let the energy move up and out through you to expression, and then let them go. Expressing them ensures they don't remain stuck inside you.
It is normal to have a full range of emotions. They give us important information and enable us to experience life in all its colors, not just black and white. By paying attention to the signs our bodies give us, we can manage dangers and appreciate beauty, kindness, and love when they are present, which helps us feel happy and content.
The feeling in your stomach when something isn't right, the part of yourself that said, "This isn't a good idea," and the good feelings about others who turn out to be excellent and reliable friends. All our emotions have a purpose, and they help us to steer our lives. We need to master critical mental skills and cognitive strategies to be bigger than our emotions and to look objectively at how we're feeling, why we're feeling, and what these feelings genuinely are.
Emotional intelligence is using the information our emotions provide to act appropriately in the face of daily challenges. It's being able to understand, express, and manage our own emotions. It provides the basis for having good, mutually satisfying, and maintaining good relationships. Emotional intelligence is also about thinking clearly and solving problems under pressure.
In cultivating good emotional intelligence, you can avoid crashing and burning when things in life take a turn for the worse because you have the skills to identify, process, and manage your emotions.
Unresolved trauma is a potential root cause of overpowering symptoms of anger, anxiety, fear, sleep problems, body pain, depression, low and high motivation, and addictions.
Past traumatic experiences can linger in our nervous systems as our bodies attempt to renegotiate what happened before to end differently. A traumatic event could be as simple as a fall or as complex as torture spanning years.
Gifted and intelligent people are a group who may experience chronic stress throughout their lives. The world often misunderstands gifted children and adults, and they get messages from others that they aren't good enough. Gifted individuals may be called arrogant, lazy, stubborn, peculiar, overreacting, etc. They may have been told to be perfect, less sensitive, less imaginative, and less active.
When the needs of gifted children go unmet or if they are part of a minority group or of lower socio-economic status, this can lead to feelings of shame and a host of poor behaviors.
While research suggests higher intelligence and emotional sensitivity may make a person more resilient, it does not insulate them from the effects of trauma.
"The role of therapy is to help people acknowledge and face old hurts instead of hiding from them; to find adaptive ways of dealing with their pain; to explore and express their real selves. In short, the therapist helps clients to learn to delight in themselves."
~ Elinor Greenberg, Ph.D., CGP, Author of Borderline, Narcissistic, and Schizoid Adaptations
Childhood Trauma & Highly Gifted Individuals
When a person suffers from mental illness, especially those born out of childhood trauma, the landscape becomes even more challenging to navigate for the gifted child or adult.
Having suffered continual trauma in early childhood, a child's personality forms in the crucible of the trauma exposures. Trauma shapes and changes them in ways that are both biological and psychological.
Complex PTSD looks different from person to person. For trauma sufferers, C-PTSD validates their experience of multiple layers of trauma. Among clinicians, C-PTSD is often used to refer to someone with both Axis I and Axis II disorders. The two perspectives can be unified by adopting a larger, more compassionate view of trauma's impact.
What is Complex PTSD?
Complex PTSD or Complex Trauma develops in response to prolonged, repeated exposure to interpersonal abuse or trauma, often where there is little or no chance for escape.
Examples of traumatic events that can cause CPTSD include:
- Childhood abuse, neglect, or abandonment.
- Physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse.
- Experiencing or witnessing domestic violence.
- Experiencing prolonged bullying or workplace abuse.
- Being a survivor of human trafficking or prisoner of war.
PTSD is typically associated with a single traumatic event, whereas CPTSD results from long-term recurring trauma. PTSD and CPTSD share overlapping symptoms, including but not limited to hypervigilance, feelings of guilt or shame, and emotional distress.
Healing | Mindfulness for Complex PTSD and Sensitive People
Mindfulness meditation and other related activities can be helpful for very sensitive people. Engaging in mindful awareness reduces adverse feelings and fosters positive ones.
Mindfulness means awareness of whatever you are experiencing, and the quality of this awareness is of particular importance, too. It must be open, accepting, nonjudgmental, and focused on the here and the now.
The potential benefits of mindfulness meditation include:
Emotions can be overpowering, and not knowing why or being able to point to any specific cause is one of the most disorienting aspects of Complex PTSD. The symptoms of Complex PTSD that can manifest are as varied as those who suffer from this condition. Even more confusing for the sufferer is when they are categorized as Highly Sensitive People (HSP) or designated a Gifted Child.
High sensitivity can be defined as acute physical, mental, and emotional responses to stimuli, and yet this does not mean being highly sensitive has no benefits. Sensitive people experience more frequent and intense negative emotions and lower well-being than others.
There is new research on the emotions of sensitive people regarding sensory processing sensitivity and reactivity. These individuals (HSP) process sensory data deeply and experience strong emotional reactions.
Gifted children tend to be more intelligent, sensitive, and emotionally aware than other children and can often ignore their feelings and needs.
We need to master critical mental skills and cognitive strategies to be bigger than our emotions and look objectively at our feelings and why. Emotional intelligence is using the information our emotions provide to act appropriately in the face of daily challenges.
When a person suffers from mental illness, especially those born out of childhood trauma, the landscape becomes even more challenging to navigate for the gifted child or adult. Having suffered continual trauma, a child's personality forms in the crucible of the trauma exposures.
Help ease the suffering of others
Complex trauma develops in response to prolonged, repeated exposure to interpersonal abuse or trauma, often where there is little or no chance for escape.
PTSD and CPTSD share overlapping symptoms, including but not limited to hypervigilance, feelings of guilt or shame, and emotional distress.
Mindfulness meditation can benefit those suffering from Complex PTSD who might be highly sensitive.
Follow Nature ... wherever She may lead You
© 2005-2023, Mark Zuleger-Thyss, Garden of Healing, LLC
The web property Garden of Healing dot com is owned and operated by Garden of Healing, LLC; all rights reserved.
GardenofHealing.com | Information and Inspiration for Natural Health and Healing
Garden Healing, established in the U.S.A. in 2005, is an independent, artful journalistic endeavor with content conveying a comprehensive picture of natural health and healing in North America and beyond. We seek to inspire by presenting a global view of developments in the science of healing and medicine from a uniquely American perspective.