15 year old daughter with Complex PTSD
My daughter is 15 years old and has recently been diagnosed with Complex PTSD.
She is a survivor or sexual abuse and rape that occurred over a 5 year period when she was younger (6-11 y/o).
Just a couple weeks ago, her abuser was sentenced to 50-100 years in prison for what he did to my daughter and her cousin.
She has suffered from extreme depression, anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares for many years. I’ve had her with 8 different therapists over the years which did not help her. She is currently with a trauma informed therapist right now, who she really seems to like, so I’m praying that she can get the help now that she deserves. She is currently on Zoloft for her depression/anxiety, but it doesn’t seem to help much. And it surely doesn’t help with her flashbacks and nightmares.
Has anyone had success with anything that have helped with their flashbacks and nightmares? I’m desperate to find something for her so she can finally experience the beautiful life that she deserves.
It’s been debilitating for her, and it’s difficult to explain to people who don’t understand the severity that CPTSD does to someone, especially a child. She sits in her bedroom for days, has little motivation to be around anyone, does not take care of her hygiene, has been taken out of school and is doing online school now because her anxiety being around all the students was making her worse, she now wants to drop out of school because it’s just too much for her to concentrate, she is extremely irritable, she began smoking weed and drinking to take away the pain of her trauma, she’s just so sad all the time and it breaks my heart.
Any insight on what has helped with others with CPTSD is greatly appreciated. She is to the point where she doesn’t want to try anything because she has it in her head that nothing will help her. She tells me she’s dealt with this pain for so long already, so she’s just kind of used to suffering. How do I get her to understand that this is not what her life is going to be like forever?! How can I explain to her that there is something out there for her that is going to help her, she just needs to believe it and believe in herself
Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Mental Health Support Group.
@caseyn2020 Welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. My heart aches for both you and your daughter, and reading your post shows me just how much you are wanting to help her. I do not have CPTSD. There is abuse in my past, though.
Your daughter will advance through healing and dealing with trauma on her own timeline. You mentioned that she has a trauma informed specialist that she likes, now. Perhaps you can ask this person for hints and tips that you can incorporate to give your daughter a safe place? There might be specific facts/persons related to the abuse that is known to others and your daughter struggles with that, knowing that others know [thinking along the lines of a public trial]. Finding a purpose in life, realizing that she has the opportunity to help others who struggle, may appeal to her, and show her that she does indeed matter to others in a positive way. But often, finding that "sweet spot" to feel comfortable can be a hard-won battle. Sometimes using art therapy is very helpful, as can writing out emotions, or using physical exercise to prove "you're worth it!"
It reads like I am rambling on here, and yeah, you're right. I am just thinking and putting down through the keyboard, the thoughts that come to mind as I process your daughter's situation. It's been a long road for me, too. It would be simply great to reach out and give you both a big hug, look into your eyes and tell you that at some point, things will look more positive. There is no timeline for that, and even the littlest steps forward can be giant. But sometimes you don't see it until later, when you look back.
Please feel free to PM me if you want, and we both are looking forward to hearing what tips others may post here!
@caseyn2020 I've been thinking of your daughter and how worried you must be about her. This is a difficult space in time for both of you. I'm glad that she is being seen by a trauma-informed mental health therapist who she connects with. This is so important as the years of experience of the therapist and the connection with your daughter is just as important as the techniques that the therapist uses. Most of all, it is important that your daughter is listened to, feels heard, and her therapist does not "judge" her for what has happened or choices your daughter has made since the original trauma.
I think that your daughter's use of alcohol and weed should be watched. Unfortunately, it does happen that people who have been through what your daughter experienced try to numb themselves from the emotional pain with drugs and alcohol. This can turn, in time, into yet another thing to deal with – addiction. It doesn't happen to everyone but it can happen so I hope her therapist knows about your daughter's drug and alcohol use so this can be discussed in their sessions.
There is a really good website on trauma from the National Center for PTSD. While this Center is administered by the US Veterans Administration the information is relevant for all traumatic events as are the diagnostic information and treatments. The website explains the different types of trauma including sexual abuse, types of treatments that have been shown to be effective through research, and of course the important of seeing a therapist. I hope that reading this will be helpful to you.
National Center for PTSD
Please write me a private message if I can be helpful to you.
I am so sorry your daughter has gone through so much. The trauma specialist is an excellent therapist to see.
I am much older than your daughter. I am also interested in helpful discussions. The diagnosis of C-PTSD is new for me and I have not been able to find a trauma specialist in my area.
All my best to you and your daughter
I feel for you! My son has been showing signs of PTSD (possibly related to post-Covid/post viral malaise and academic anxiety) for over a year. He stopped going to school and said he didn’t care about anything anymore. He would not try Sertraline or agree to talk to a psychologist. We explored boarding schools and therapy schools, but he felt as if he was being sent into away into exile. And, we knew that if he were required to give weekly urine samples, he would sooner let his bladder burst than submit to such demands. He agreed to do NeuroPsych Educatonal testing, and learning differences were diagnosed, as well as General Anxiety and markers for Autism. The Neuropsychologist recommended a psychologist who specializes in helping young people develop a healthy relationship with technology. He plays video games, board games, etc. with his clients who have completely shut down in real life. The Neuropsychologist also recommended an alternative learning private school because the IEP process was going to take months, months that we did not have. My son’s new high school has 1:1 personalized learning, a flexible schedule, and rolling admissions. Based on the student’s needs, they can go outside for lunch and not feel locked up in a school building. The neuropsychologist recommended for my son the most accommodating and least restrictive environment for him to earn his high school diploma. As a family, we still have a long way to go, but after 3 years of struggling, I finally feel that we are getting the supports that we need.
I am almost 69 years old and I was not diagnosed with complex ptsd until I was 64. I was scared at the time that I had Parkinson's so we came to Mayo in Rochester for a second opinion. I cannot tell you what this diagnosis meant to me. I have struggled during my life with crippling depression and have been treated for it in both talk therapy and with medication; after I was attacked and raped by the owner of the company I worked for. My parents were my attackers, so I had no safe place to go when I was a child. As an adult, I had to teach and parent myself. I was gifted with a grandma who taught me the meaning of unconditional love.
If you'd like you can share one of my methods for working through deep depression…I imagine that I am wearing a wetsuit, (I live in Iowa) and that the depression is the waves that are coming in off the ocean. I guess it could be called a mindful meditation, as I surf my way through that ugly, sucking you to the bottom of the world feeling that depression unchecked pulls you under with. Does your daughter like to read? I am so sorry that your daughter has been hurt this way. I send you lots of love, healing energy and laughter, because it is so important to laugh!
P.S. If your daughter loves to read, get her into the library and let he start researching ways to help herself, too. Books and dogs have always been my best friends. When I was diagnosed at 64 with cptsd,did, we got a standard poodle puppy we trained ourselves "How To Train Your Own Psychiatric Service Dog". I can see where this might be the biggest thing you could do for your daughter; training your own Service Dog takes a commitment and love. If she loves animals, likes to read, you may have found one of the key ingredients a Service Dog brings to the home. Safety and never alone! Beau alerts me when I am going to have an "episode| before I am even physically aware, I go sit down, take my meds and he climbs into my lap, applies 70 pounds of compression therapy and licks my face and neck to help me stay present. My life with Beau is beautiful and he made such a difference for me my husband and I are now owned by three standard poodles. Smartest dogs we have ever trained! I loved poetry when I was your daughter's age. I also was wondering if she might have an interest in yoga; that has helped me to learn self compassion with my body. Wishing you the best ~ Paula
That’s great that he is getting the help he needs and deserves!
My daughter was placed in a specialized classroom setting her freshman year of Highschool (she is now a sophomore). It was for kids who just didn’t have the capability to sit in normal classroom settings and feel the anxiety of having to keep up with everyone else, as well as all the homework. It allowed more one on one time with the teachers, all the kids worked at their own pace, they didn’t have homework unless they didn’t complete their work in school, and they had frequent breaks where they played games, went outdoors, had “family” time, and were given incentives if they completed their work in a timely manner. It helped dramatically. Until a couple of months into her sophomore year, this seemed to take away so much of her anxiety. I unfortunately ended up having to take her out of this school program and put her into an online school because the closer her court date came, the more anxiety and emotions she was feeling.
The online school has been extremely beneficial for her. She no longer has to dread going into a school filled with peers that caused her anxiety to worsen, and she can still work at her own pace.
I am so sorry that you have had to experience that. It makes me so sad and angry that this happens to people. To see the detrimental impact it has on the victim (survivor) as well as the family. I wouldn’t wish it in my worst enemy.
I’ve tried to teach her so many other “healthy” methods of coping with what happened to her. However, I just don’t think she’s there yet. I wish that she could be more open minded that there are so many other ways of helping that aren’t detrimental to her health. I think with age, she will recognize that, and be more apt to try them. I will never stop giving her other options on ways she can cope, and I just hope that one day soon she will allow herself to try safer techniques.
I’ve been reading many books written by a well known Psychiatrist and Physician – Bessel Van Der Kolk and Gabor Maté. I highlight everything in them that I think my daughter will find beneficial and I hope that she takes the time soon to go through them, because what they say really opens your eyes to what trauma victims go through, how it affects their brains, and different ways of coping with their pain.
Thank you for sharing a little of your story with me and what has helped you.
Lots of love to you 🤍
Thank you for your kind words. It’s so comforting to feel so much love from people that we don’t even know.
It’s definitely going to be a long road to recovery for her, but I will be here for her every step of the way, as I’ve always been.
There are days that seem like things are turning around for the best, and then something small happens, and she’s back in her dark place.
I know I’m my heart, that one day she will rise above what has happened to her, and she will live a wonderful life.
We were actually just talking about an emotional support dog the other day! Unfortunately, right now, my marriage is on the fence and her and I have been living with my best friend since October. So until I know what’s happening in my marriage, getting another animal (we have a dog and 4 cats that are still in the home with my husband) at this time isn’t something that I can do ☹️
I’ve tried talking to her about getting into yoga, but it’s not something that interests her at the time. I think that she’s been stuck on fight or flight mode for so long, that she doesn’t know how to get herself to be calm and patient enough to try it. I’m hoping as time progresses, she will see that something like this can be very beneficial!
Lots of love to you, and I’m happy to hear that you have found some peace with your pup!
My animals have always been my emotional support. I miss them so much it breaks my heart