Point of View

Point of View

Reframing Complex PTSD: Can Trauma Symptoms Be Assets?

By Ryan Howes

May/June 2022

Emmy winner Stephanie Foo seemingly had it all. A young producer living the big city life of her dreams, she worked at public radio juggernauts like This American Life and Snap Judgment, and had become a popular freelancer for hip podcasts like New York Magazine’s The Cut and the hugely popular 99% Invisible. Her relationship, despite all the hours she was putting in at her jobs, was thriving. The only problem was the unnerving and suddenly unceasing panic attacks that she’d begun experiencing each morning in her office, a place where she’d always been able to keep her horrific childhood memories at bay.

When she sought help from a therapist, she received the uncommon diagnosis of complex post-traumatic stress disorder, or C-PSTD. Not yet listed in the DSM, C-PSTD has been added to the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases as a designation given to people who’ve endured multiple traumatic experiences, often over a long span of time. It can be challenging for practitioners to differentiate from traditional PTSD and, given its complexity, challenging for clients to overcome.

Foo’s level of success and her upbringing in a supposed “model-minority” Asian-American family had further obscured and extended her suffering, when in truth, she’d endured abandonment and severe abuse as a child.

In her recent book, What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma, Foo…

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