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What's The Difference Between Chronic Trauma and Complex Trauma?



I have received several emails asking me if there is a difference between chronic trauma and complex trauma? Yes, there is a difference. In chronic trauma we see multiple traumatic experiences that go on repeatedly. In complex trauma we also see multiple traumatic events, but the trauma is perpetrated by a trusted caregiver during childhood. There is also a deep sense of betrayal and loss of trust that accompanies complex trauma. To illustrate the difference between the two I will provide examples.

Chronic Trauma - Ongoing trauma that happens over and over, this can happen in childhood or in adulthood. Examples are domestic violence, war, repeated natural disasters, and being abused repeatedly

as a child or an adult.

Complex Trauma- Trauma that can be ongoing, perpetrated by a caregiver with a sense of betrayal. Examples may be childhood abuse sexual, physical or emotional, by the caregiver, or trusted family friend. Complex trauma often has interpersonal consequences longterm and can effect future relationships. We often seen difficulties with regulating emotions, shame , guilt and even disassociation. The key words to remember with complex trauma are caregiver, sense of betrayal and happening during childhood.


All trauma wether it is chronic or complex can have lasting effects on the nervous system and how the brain negotiates the stress response. Fortunately, trauma treatment continues to grow as we gain more insight and understanding of how it affects our body. I encourage anyone who has had trauma to seek out a therapist that provides EMDR or Somatic Experience therapy. In my experience a combination of the both have produced the best result with my clients.


Please feel free to reach out if you or your loved one has more questions.

gpoag@brentwoodwellnesscounseling.com

Brentwood Wellness Counseling

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