Chronic Stress Disorder: What Is It Really?

The term chronic stress disorder is often used to describe the psychological condition known as complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). C-PTSD is similar to a post-traumatic stress disorder, but better accounts for symptoms experienced as a result of chronic, repetitive trauma.

People with C-PTSD have been exposed to a traumatic situation repeatedly or over a prolonged period of time. They experience certain characteristics that are distinct from PTSD, such as captivity or entrapment (either actual or perceived), the loss of trust and self-worth, and the loss of a coherent sense of self. C-PTSD leads to attachment issues, specifically insecure and disorganized-type attachment.

C-PTSD was introduced by Judith Herman in her book Trauma & Recovery. It has been discussed in scientific literature but is not currently a recognized clinical diagnosis. Chronic stress disorder is generally recognized as stemming from forms of trauma such as sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, domestic violence, and torture. In each of these forms of trauma, the individual suffering is or feels unable to escape the situation.

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