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What Family Scapegoating Abuse Survivors Need to Know About C-PTSD

Adult survivors of family scapegoating abuse have historically been diagnosed with one or more mental health conditions that ignore the trauma symptoms they are regularly experiencing. Rarely will their most distressing symptoms be recognized as Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) secondary to growing up in an unstable,

14 thoughts on “What Family Scapegoating Abuse Survivors Need to Know About C-PTSD

  • April 17, 2020 at 12:36 pm

    I was last told I was suffering Marijuana Induced Paranoia by a therapist. My GP Doctor prescribed me some antidepressants and antianxiety meds, non narcotic, seeing as she was internal not psychological medicine. 14 yrs of abuse, a couple more exposed to it being used against others. Diagnosed with everything listed except the C-PTSD at one point or another. About time someone somewhere noticed a difference

    • April 17, 2020 at 1:46 pm

      Hi Ruthann, I’m so pleased you found my discussion on family scapegoating and it’s effects – including (at times) C-PTSD symptoms – helpful. I wish you well as you continue your recovery journey. I did link to ‘Out of the Storm”s website at the bottom of the article if you wish to find online support and learn more about C-PTSD. A trauma-informed clinician can also help assess symptoms and recommend best treatment options.

  • April 18, 2020 at 4:11 am

    Thank you. Explains just how I feel I’m currently having difficulty with flash backs and one counselor mentioned PTSD. Then treated me for anxiety as she considered me high functioning. I did the drugs and all that came with it for a couple of wasted years until I came to the realization they would win. I refused to fulfill their prophecy. But it’s not easy and I would like some peace.

    • April 18, 2020 at 11:20 am

      Thank you for sharing your story, Caroline. Sadly, I hear such reports of trauma symptoms being missed often. One client reported to me during his intake that his previous therapist had told him “We don’t need to go into your past, we will focus on the present only and use CBT”. This person not only met C-PTSD criteria, but PTSD criteria. No assessment had been made.

      I am glad that you decided to fight for your right to be treated with humanity, and to not allow yourself to be crushed down. That is “winning” right there. Peace and contentment are possible – but the path is not always easy, as you know. Feel free to visit my website – I have some resources there and you might want to sign up for my FSA Newsletter – I’m working on a full-length book on FSA along with an evidence-based recovery pathway and will be announcing the release date there. You can also reach me directly at my email address (see my profile at the bottom of this post for both). My very best to you!

  • April 18, 2020 at 2:03 pm

    Virtually all of the above symptoms, from dysfunctional upbring. Still afraid to be “me”, unsettle people with my nervous looks and anticipated rejection.
    Depression is out of dread, fear, negative personal perceptions, worthlessness, failure, nuisance, guilty, reject, unliked and unwantable.
    Fear of rejection I struggle with, as with lack of confidence and emotional feeling of incompetance.
    Hopelessness and confusion prevail, as does despair.
    My motif would be “The Scream”.
    Am drifting, unsure and apprehensive of the next action, hour, day, week, future (so uncertain I imagine I am just about to die, near future).

    Blimey, not positive, is it but my nightmare is constant, overwhelming and consuming.
    Being in the present seems sooo scary, through fear of actions against me (past experiences).
    Ohhh, gawd, death is often pondered as an escape but I really just want to escape this awfulness, misery, sadness and unhappiness.
    I so wanted to feel “loved”.
    I became the easy prey for a narcissis, which I am attempting to rationalise, overcome, deal with, recover.
    Am very unstable, dysfunctional and miserable.
    Feel as though I am extremely tired, exhausted, can hardly walk without falling down, out of despair, thinking, “just more grief ahead, so why go on”?

    • April 18, 2020 at 3:25 pm

      ‘The Scream’ (painted by Edvard Munch, for those who don’t know it) is a worthy analogy. The original title, by the way, was ‘The Scream of Nature’. Being rejected, shamed, betrayed, abused by one’s own family – including one’s own parents – would seem to against nature, and yet within our human species it happens all the time. We live in a world where parents / family members who are unconscious, wounded / traumatized, narcissistic, sociopathic, or just downright evil objectify and dehumanize their own children. Dehumanized children grow up to become all kinds of things, including (at times) parents who mistreat and abuse their own children. And so the cycle goes on and on and on, and here we all are.

      Contemplating suicide is common for many scapegoated adult survivors. I am sure you already know about suicide hot lines but ethically I must include an international link here – direct lines to the countries mentioned are included:

      Getting in touch with righteous rage is a good antidote to suicidal thoughts and feelings, as often this is a symptom of rage (due to being dehumanized, objectified, abused, maltreated) turned against the self. No one should be dehumanized or objectified, least of all a helpless child.

      I do not know what your resources are – you may find the forums over at ‘Out of the Storm’ helpful (I link to their website in the original post here). Ideally, you would have access to a trauma-informed therapist who can help you to recover and heal from family and narcissistic abuse. Please feel free to email me (via my profile) if you need more assistance finding help.

  • April 20, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    I often joke that I already had PTSD when I joined the Navy back in ’93.

    • April 20, 2020 at 10:59 pm

      I think a lot of us here would ‘get’ that joke, Michael! Thank you for commenting.

  • May 14, 2020 at 10:10 pm

    I would add “intense feelings of desperation” to the symptom list.

  • June 20, 2020 at 11:24 am

    For a long time I have felt like the trauma I experienced from childhood sexual abuse and rape was nothing compared to the way some of my family members treated me in adulthood after I had a breakdown which resulted from the childhood abuse by a distant family member, a teenage boyfriend and later, physical abuse by 2 ex-husbands. The way my older sisters shamed me and gaslighted me and ostracized me after all of those things happened to me was so painful that I haven’t been able to fully process it. I couldn’t escape it. I had no choice but to be constantly exposed and surrounded by their seething resentment toward me at a time when I needed love and acceptance and understanding more than anything. And then, this morning, out of curiosity, I just happened to click on this article about FSA and Complex-PTSD. I burst into tears because it almost felt as though someone had written a letter directly to me and said “Hey J., this is what happened to you and this is how it made you feel and I just want you to know that your experiences and feelings are legitimate.” I couldn’t stop crying.

    • June 20, 2020 at 12:42 pm

      Hi Janet, I am so touched by your comment this morning. I’m grateful that you did decide to click on my article on family scapegoating and C-PTSD. I’m attaching another article I just wrote this week on the same subject that I hope you will find helpful. I also plan to write an article in the future on exactly what you describe here – When siblings who did not experience (or register) various abuses dismiss, shame, and/or gaslight the abuse survivor when they share their truth. Also, in family systems, we consider a sibling generation to be six years, meaning, a younger sibling could have a completely different ‘growing up’ experience than their older siblings. For example, in my case, my alcoholic father was not drinking and was working and my mother was a “stay-at-home” mom during my older siblings first five years. When I was born, he was drinking, actively abusing my mother, and disabled due to having a leg amputated, and she was working full-time to try and support the family and overwhelmed by stress (I was also extremely ill as an infant, adding to the stressful environment). The older siblings often do not believe the younger siblings reports of abuse (whatever they are and whoever the perpetrator was) as they had such a different experience – so we are often seen as “liars”, “dramatic”, and unable to “get over” our childhoods. Link to my other FSA / C-PTSD article here – which discusses overlapping symptoms.

  • July 1, 2020 at 8:19 pm

    At least 10 of the things you listed apply to me.
    I’m grateful that I found your site, as it’s the only one that’s really resonated with me. I’ve spent most of my life wishing I wasn’t here, that it’s almost a comforting thought. I have watched other people carefully over the years to try and work out, how they manage when I don’t seem to and my life feels so hard and silent.

    • July 1, 2020 at 9:29 pm

      Hi Christine, glad you found my blog. “Hard and silent” is a powerful (and even poetic) way to describe what so many FSA sufferers experience deep within. You may also want to visit my website (link in my profile, below) for additional resources, including my eBook on FSA that is currently on sale. I wish you the very best in your healing journey.


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