Complex PTSD symptoms and drug-free treatments - Ottawa
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What is Complex Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Woman suffering from complex PTSD

Complex PTSD presents with some similar symptoms to PTSD, with notable differences.  Complex PTSD is diagnosed in individuals who have experienced repeated trauma (neglect, violence, abuse. Complex PTSD is through to be more severe if is was experienced early in life, was caused by a caregiver, if it was experienced over a long period of time and if there is ongoing contact with the person who caused the trauma.

Complex PTSD is often rooted in childhood experiences and is thought to change the course of brain development.  Behaviour and self confidence can be affected.  People with Complex PTSD may lose trust in other people and feel separated/distanced from others.

What are the symptoms of Complex PTSD?

Symptoms of Complex PTSD may include;

  • anxiety and depression
  • physical symptoms (pain, dizziness, headaches, etc.)
  • feelings of guilt and shame,
  • feeling disconnected/dissociated
  • difficulty thinking
  • difficulty establishing healthy relationships
  • risky behaviour
  • thoughts of death or suicide

Complex PTSD Assessments

There are several PTSD assessments that we use at Renew Neurotherapy that help direct therapy. These include:

  • QEEG/Brain Map.  A Brain Map allows your therapist to see the specific patterns of activity that may be contributing to your symptoms and will help direct therapy.
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5) The Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist is a 20-question pen and paper self assessment tool.  It is intended to measure the incidence and severity of symptoms.  This provides the therapist with information that guides therapy.
  • The Beck Depression Inventory The Beck Depression Inventory is a 21-question pen and paper self assessment tool.  It is intended to measure items including sadness, loss of pleasure, feelings of guilt and sense of worthlessness.
  • The Burns Anxiety Inventory  The Burns Anxiety Inventory is a 21-question pen and paper self assessment tool.  The questions used in this measure ask about common symptoms of anxiety that the subject has had during the past week such as numbness and tingling, sweating not due to heat, and fear of the worst happening.
  • Recovery Assessment Scale  The Recovery Assessment Scale is a 38-item pen and paper self-assessment scale developed to assist the therapist in developing a plan that focuses on how you perceive your recovery.  This allows the therapist to develop a plan that you can realistically follow.

Some of the brief pen and paper assessments used to measure progress include:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder Assessment
  • Patient Health Questionnaire

Complex PTSD Treatment


Renew clinicians use a broad range of tools in order to support your recovery.  These include Cognitive Behavioural strategies, Dialectical Behaviour strategies, distress tolerance, behaviour activation, stress and anxiety management, emotion regulation training, graded exposure therapies, setting boundaries,, somatic therapies/movement and rehabilitation psychotherapy/yoga therapy, etc. Find out what is psychotherapy at Renew.

Lifestyle changes and brain health support

Current research tells us that basic strategies such as daily exercise, good nutrition, healthy work-life balance, spending time with loved ones, enjoying relaxation time, decreasing screen time, prioritizing and optimizing sleep, and more, have a significant positive impact on mental health. 

Renew therapists can support you in restructuring your daily routine, setting boundaries, establishing realistic goals and identifying priorities as you shift to a healthier and more balanced life.

Attention, memory and executive function support

Chronic anxiety has been shown to have a detrimental effect on brain function.  Clients discuss difficulty with attention and memory.  They often comment on struggling to organize their thoughts, and feeling immobilized with the prospect of never-ending to do lists. 

Renew therapists are experienced in providing cognitive rehabilitation and support.  They will assist you in developing strategies and tools that will both support symptoms in the short term, and promote long term recovery.

Return to work/school programs

Debilitating symptoms can be a barrier to participating in work, school, or even social or community activities.  Once your symptoms are sufficiently improved to allow you to return to the parts of your life that you have lost, your therapist will be able to help you develop a plan for success with a return to work/school program.


Neurofeedback therapy begins with a brain map that can show your therapist the patterns of brain function that may contribute to your symptoms.  Once the patterns are identified, brain training sessions can be completed to help ‘normalize’ and/or reorganize the brain activity to improve its ability to function more efficiently and flexibly.  Once the brain is better able to regulate itself, symptoms are better managed.

Anxiety symptoms typically respond well to neurofeedback.


Neuromeditation is a style of meditation that takes your brain activity and natural skills into account.  By assessing your skills prior to beginning meditation training, you and your therapist are able to identify meditation styles that best match your personality and lifestyle.  Clients typically report that learning to meditation is less difficult when applying neuromeditation techniques.