Rachael Starr is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Palm Beach County therapist, who specializes in EMDR, trauma recovery and PTSD. Her unique and highly individualized therapy style provides her clients with a safe and secure environment in which to authentically heal. Rachael combines proven therapeutic techniques, such as EMDR and relational therapy, with an unmatched level of compassion and personal understanding. Rachael works with individuals who have undergone moderate to severe traumatic experiences, and works hard to develop a customized treatment plan based on the needs and goals of each individual client. While she works with men and women who have experienced various types of trauma, she specializes in PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder).

Post-traumatic stress disorder is one of the most common mental health concerns throughout the country. It is estimated that 7.8 percent of all American citizens (24.4 million men and women) will experience the symptoms of PTSD at some point in their lives, with women over twice as likely as men to develop the trauma-related disorder. PTSD may occur after an individual has undergone a significantly traumatic event, and is characterized by a host of serious symptoms, including reliving the event, nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, hyperarousal, and feelings of despair and hopelessness. Because PTSD is so common, many understand its basic implications. What many fail to realize is that there is another widespread, trauma-related disorder – a disorder that is related to PTSD, but different in several significant ways.

What is Complex PTSD?

Complex PTSD has been long since studied, though there is some controversy regarding the difference between PTSD and C-PTSD. Many psychologists agree, however, that individuals who suffered long-term, interpersonal trauma (especially in early childhood and adolescence), are often afflicted with a set of psychological symptoms distinctive to C-PTSD. While post-traumatic stress disorder can result from a single traumatic incident (such as a car accident, natural disaster, sexual assault, or war), complex post-traumatic stress disorder results from chronic or long-term exposure to emotional trauma. C-PTSD victims are typically held in a state of captivity (emotional, mental, or physical) for a prolonged period of time. Some examples of traumatic experiences that will likely lead to C-PTSD are long-term sexual abuse during childhood, long-term domestic violence, long-term abuse or neglect during childhood, and being the long-term partner of an active sex addict.

The symptoms of C-PTSD are idiosyncratic, and sufferers will experience some (or all) of the following:

  • An inability to develop and maintain healthy, trusting relationships.
  • A propensity to seek out relationships and experiences that resemble their initial trauma.
  • Difficulty regulating moods and emotions.
  • A disturbance in their view of themselves.
  • The loss of a solid sense of self, and other identity problems.

In some instances, those who have suffered C-PTSD will unwittingly adopt the belief system of their perpetrator. This is directly tied into confusion surrounding self-identity, and leads to a loss of autonomy that can wreak long-term emotional havoc. Some victims of C-PTSD even go on to become abusers themselves. More often than not, however, they are compelled to seek out relationships that work to mirror their early abuse. The effects of long-term, interpersonal trauma can be even more severe than the characteristic symptoms of PTSD. Those who experience Complex PTSD will frequently suffer from impaired impulse control, mood dysregulation, shifts in self-perception, difficulty relating to others, existential dread, a fragmented sense of self, an inability to self-soothe, and somatic symptoms (such as headaches, weakness, and stomach cramping). While there is a marked overlap in the symptoms of the two disorders, there is no question that each individual disorder is distinct in both cause and effect.

Rachael Starr, LCSW, is a Palm Beach County therapist with extensive professional experience in the realm of trauma and PTSD. Rachael has developed a unique and highly effective program of intensive trauma therapy, which consists of five full days of one-on-one therapeutic healing. The intensive trauma program focuses on overcoming the lasting effects of trauma through proven modalities such as EMDR and relational therapy. The benefits of intensive therapy are immense and multifaceted – there is no stop-start-stop, as is inevitable in traditional weekly therapy. Clients are able to jump start the healing process in a short matter of days, and begin living the fulfilled and symptom-free lives they truly deserve.