Health Assured team

03 February 2022

When trauma is left untreated, it can seep into a person’s everyday life. Their psychological and physiological state can restrict them from doing daily tasks.

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (or C-PTSD) is a serious medical condition, which can be categorised as a lifelong illness. In some cases, employees diagnosed with C-PTSD silently suffer during their daily work-life.

If you neglect or mistreat anyone with a mental or physical health issue, you could face claims of discrimination–with business disruption and hefty compensation fees to follow.

In this guide, we’ll explain what complex PTSD is, whether it counts as a disability, and how you can provide support for C-PTSD sufferers.

What is complex PTSD?

Complex PTSD is a medical diagnosis found in people who've suffered from repeated traumatic events. Causes for complex PTSD can root from neglect, abuse, and violence.

Some triggers for complex PTSD may originate from:

  • Sufferings during childhood.
  • Traumas caused by a parent or carer.
  • Experiencing trauma over a long period.
  • Remaining in contact with an abuser.

In some cases, the causes or after-effects can go undetected for years. Meaning, people struggle to cope with the illness, in their professional and personal lives.

What are symptoms of complex PTSD?

Many C-PTSD victims share symptoms which derive from abandonment, childhood abuse, and domestic violence.

Common symptoms found in both C-PTSD and PTSD include:

  • Being unable to control emotions.
  • Losing concentration or attention (dissociation).
  • Holding negative self-perceptions.
  • Struggling to manage relationships.
  • Holding a distorted view of an abuser (i.e., desire to seek revenge or giving them autonomy).

Is complex PTSD a disability in UK law?

Complex PTSD doesn’t automatically class as a disability under UK legislation. However, it can if it matches similar medical conditions.

Under the Equality Act (2010), when a mental health condition has a long-term affect on a person’s daily activities, it may be defined as a disability.

When conditions become disabling for people with complex PTSD, PIP (Personal Independence Payment) can be awarded.  

To safeguard employees, you must acknowledge their medical health conditions and offer appropriate support. Without it, they could suffer from work-related stress and burnout; leading to physical and mental fatigue.

What is the difference between complex PTSD vs PTSD?

PTSD usually happens after a single traumatic event, whereas C-PTSD is linked to ongoing or repeated incidents.

Another big difference is treatment. PTSD treatment usually involves trauma-focused therapy. This include eye movement desensitisation reprocessing (EMDR) or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

With C-PTSD, the same treatments can be used. However, there is a bigger focus on learning strategies, like managing emotions or building supportive relationships.

Complex PTSD vs BPD (borderline personality disorder)

Both C-PTSD and borderline personality disorder (or BPD) share emotional and interpersonal symptoms. These include emotional uncertainty, unpredictable behaviour, and intense feelings of desolation.

BPD can also be linked to environmental causes and even genealogy. Whereas, C-PTSD develops because of exposure to traumatic events.

Complex PTSD vs ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)

Inattentiveness and hyperactivity are two of the biggest characteristics of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It doesn’t correspond with C-PTSD symptoms like, intrusive thoughts and flashbacks. 

However, both conditions do share symptoms like restlessness, lack of concentration, and reckless behaviour.

How do you manage complex PTSD in the workplace?

People with C-PTSD inevitably face triggers during daily life.

For many employees, it might prove difficult to work with these symptoms. And for employers, safeguarding their welfare can prove to be complicated.

Here's how you can help employees with complex PTSD. Support and treatment can include:

  • Making reasonable work adjustments.
  • Providing trauma-focused therapy.
  • Offering counselling meetings.
  • Offering medical advice and care.

Some people might have milder symptoms or are working on healing themselves. Whatever their case may be, your main responsibility is to host a healthy and safe workplace.

Get further advice on complex PTSD with Health Assured

If you have staff members who have complex PTSD, aim to provide effective support during work.

They might never fully heal from the trauma, but you are still legally bound to care for their health and welfare.

Neglect it and you could face legal claims–leading to major business disruption and penalties.

Health Assured provides advice on complex PTSD and trauma management. Our teams can offer specialised knowledge on employee wellbeing whilst considering your business needs.

We also provide a 24/7 helpline, that’s open 365 days a year – helping you care for your staff all year round. Arrange a call back from an expert today on 0844 891 0351.

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