CPTSD and a Lack of Self-Trust

CPTSD Foundation
7 min readMay 15, 2023

People living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) often struggle with self-trust

Do you trust yourself? Your judgment and your decisions?

People living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) often struggle with self-trust. This is because they learned in childhood that they cannot trust themselves and still hear the voices in their minds of their abusers.

This article will discover how complex trauma affects your self-trust.

What is Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Unlike post-traumatic stress disorder, CPTSD is caused by repeated trauma that occurs in childhood. Children are trapped in their situation and unable to escape the abuse and neglect they might be undergoing. This lack of the possibility of rescue from their abusers causes the child to deny and internalize their emotions which becomes a problem in adulthood.

The life-altering symptoms of complex post-traumatic stress disorder are numerous and include the following:

  • Reliving the trauma through flashbacks and nightmares
  • Avoiding situations that remind them of the trauma they endured as a child
  • Dizziness or nausea when remembering the trauma
  • Hyperarousal
  • The belief that the world is a dangerous place
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Startling easily by loud noises
  • A negative self-view
  • Emotional regulation difficulties
  • Problems with relationships
  • Thoughts or actions of suicide
  • Fixating on the abuser or seeking revenge
  • Losing memories of trauma or reliving them
  • Difficulty regulating emotions that often manifest as rage
  • Depression
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Feeling detached from oneself
  • Feeling different from others
  • Feeling ashamed
  • Feeling guilty
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships
  • Seeking our or becoming a rescuer
  • Feeling afraid for no apparent reason
  • A loss of trust in the self or others

As one can see, the symptoms of CPTSD are devastating, but treatment by a trained mental health professional who specializes in trauma disorders can help.

What is Healthy Self-Trust?

Healthy self-trust involves being confident and having great faith in oneself. If you have healthy self-trust, you will have faith in your abilities, and if you find yourself in a situation (such as an uncomfortable work environment), you will remove yourself immediately.

With a healthy self-trust, you stick to your personal standards, core values, and ethics and know when and how to put yourself first. You will also have confidence that you can pursue your dreams and will not allow others to stop you or persuade you.

Other signs you have healthy trust in yourself include:

  • You say positive things about yourself.
  • You are rarely critical of yourself.
  • You never tell or say negative jokes about yourself.
  • You are focused on your positives.
  • You recognize your achievements.
  • You do not blame yourself when things go wrong.
  • You know you are as good as everyone else.
  • You readily accept compliments.
  • You know that you are enough.

If you find you lack the above attributes, you may have difficulty with self-trust.

Self-Trust and CPTSD

Children who are neglected or abused learn to count only on themselves and not trust those around them

Looking at the symptoms of CPTSD, you may have noticed that it includes a lack of trust in self or others. It might be that this lack of trust exists because the adult with complex post-traumatic stress disorder endured severe and repeated trauma in childhood from the people they were supposed to be able to count on.

Children have basic needs for their brains and emotions to develop normally. Children who are neglected or abused learn to count only on themselves and not trust those around them.

Children who grow up in abusive or neglectful homes cannot rely on anyone to save or even notice them, and they always feel endangered. These children exist in a fog of shame, guilt, and fear.

Abused and neglected children often form CPTSD, and they learn to feel they can trust no one. One can see the problems with this deeply engrained belief system as it is difficult to form relationships and keep the ones they do find.

Healing from Both CPTSD and a Lack of Self-Trust

It is critical to recognize there are at least three segments that will aid you in healing from the trauma that has caused CPTSD and feeling you are untrustworthy. If you use these tools, they can help you gain control over the path you are taking.

Utilizing these three building blocks while, if possible, working with a therapist will start you on a new experience that will change your perspective on yourself and others. The segments include self-examination, looking hard at how you see yourself and others, and this means you will encounter your childhood trauma head-on.

The intention of taking on these healing segments is to become less identified with your trauma and make good choices for your future.

The Three Segments of Healing

Segment One: Recognizing the impact trauma has had on your life. Ask yourself, how has my history shaped my perspective of myself and the world around me? How do I identify with my past? Let us examine the answers to these questions together to help you recognize how much trauma has affected your life.

  • Behaviorally you have decreased ability to control your impulses, exhibit hyperactivity, and experience eating and sleeping difficulties.
  • Emotionally, you lack trust in others and are reluctant to engage in relationships, plus you have difficulty asking someone else for help.
  • Lower self-esteem and you lack confidence and belief in your skills and strengths. You also harbor higher levels of guilt and shame.

Segment Two: Find and Build Trust and Support. Complex post-traumatic stress disorder is relational damage. You trusted your caregivers to protect you, and they did not. Instead of your relationship with your caregivers being supportive, comforting, and safe, they were abusive and ignored your needs. As a child, you had no option to leave your abusers and now find building trust for a relationship nearly impossible. Likely, you spend time protecting yourself by not opening up to anyone.

You may wish to explore therapy as therapeutic relationships might provide a healing experience through the therapists encouraging you and giving you positive support when you become emotional in their office. You might also seek out people who do not criticize or shame you and tell them how they can help you.

Segment Three: Empowerment. How you think about yourself and talk to yourself matters, especially during your healing journey. To become empowered, you must show self-kindness when working through the trauma you lived through as a child. Don’t be judgmental asking. Try not to believe that you are broken or damaged, as you are not. You are a wounded soul mistreated by those who should have been trustworthy but were not.

Setting firm boundaries and sticking with them is another empowering movement for you. When you were a child, your boundaries were violated repeatedly, leaving you unable or cautious to make them as an adult. Start small, such as telling people you need time for yourself alone to recharge, then turn off your notifications from those people and get some rest. There are thousands, if not millions, of boundaries to choose from depending on who you are and what you need.

Another way to empower yourself is to advocate for yourself. Recognizing what you need and want, asking for them, and standing your ground when someone denies you these things. We’re not talking about wanting and expecting a new car; we’re talking about demanding and expecting respect and dignity from someone else. At first, this step will feel uncomfortable and a bit overwhelming, but you must stand up for yourself to feel empowered and in charge.

Mental Health Awareness Month

May is when we try to raise awareness of mental health issues and stamp out the stigma associated with them

I would also like to mention men’s mental health problems and how you can help.

Men in our society are ignored regarding their mental health until something happens, and we can ignore them no more. Too many men die by suicide because they do not feel emotionally well and are afraid to reach out for help.

We expect our men to be stoic and not to show their emotions, condemning them to a life of internalizing their feelings without any escape for them. These emotions build up in some men until they give up and die. It is time we made it normal to go to a therapist or psychiatrist for men to be just as it is to the doctor for heart problems or any other physical health problem.

Reach out to any men you know in your family or circle of friends and tell them you care and respect their emotional turmoil. Society has always placed too much emphasis on their being harsh; we need to change that.

Ending Our Time Together

There is so much to talk about with self-trust that this series might take five posts to explain it all.

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder makes having a healthy sense of self-trust much harder. The two together, CPTSD and lack of self-trust, often lead people down the rabbit hole of self-blame and self-loathing they do not deserve.

Trusting yourself is fundamental to having good mental health. By utilizing the three healing segments while seeing a qualified therapist, your life can make a drastic change for the better. You are in control.

“The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.” — Michel de Montaigne

Originally published at https://cptsdfoundation.org.

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CPTSD Foundation

Successfully equipping complex trauma survivors and practitioners with compassionate support, skills, and trauma-informed education since 2014.