A PTSD and cPTSD Primer

Updated: Feb 26, 2020

As soon as the words Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, known as PTSD, are read or spoken we tend to think of war veterans. In reality, war is only one of the many traumas that cause PTSD. The National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) have a very simple definition for PTSD:

"PTSD is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced or learned about a shocking, scary, or dangerous event."

Not every traumatized person develops ongoing (chronic) or even short-term (acute) PTSD. And not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Some experiences, like the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one, can also cause PTSD. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) manual has also expanded the stressors of PTSD to include those who may not have directly experienced the traumatic event to those who:

  • Learn that the traumatic event occurred to a close family member or close friend with the actual or threatened death being either violent or accidental. In fact, research now shows that we inherit traumatic memories from our ancestors; most sources citing up to four generations before us.

  • Experiences first-hand repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic event.


Symptoms usually begin early, within 3 months of the traumatic incident, but can begin decades afterward. An example of this can be an adult who was fine until after being hit in an auto accident which triggers somatic memories of their child abuse. The word somatic is the relationship between the mind and body in regard to psychological past. Somatic psychology confirms that the mind and body connection is deeply rooted.