Russian Psychological Issues
JournalsTopicsAuthorsEditor's Choice For AuthorsAbout PsyJournals.ruContact Us

  Previous issue (2020. Vol. 9, no. 1)

Journal of Modern Foreign Psychology

Publisher: Moscow State University of Psychology and Education

ISSN (online): 2304-4977


License: CC BY-NC 4.0

Started in 2012

Published quarterly

Free of fees
Open Access Journal


Complex psychological trauma as a consequence of extreme stress 223

Ekimova V.I.
Doctor of Philology, Department of Extreme Psychology, Moscow State University of Psychology and Education , Moscow, Russia

Luchnikova E.P.
Master Student, Chair of Scientific Basis of Extreme Psychology, Department of Extreme Psychology, Moscow State University of Psychology & Education, Moscow, Russia

The article presents a brief review of the concept of complex psychological trauma transformations over thirty years, which occurred since the moment when the term Complex Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) was proposed as a clinical syndrome of multiple psychological traumatization to its official recognition as a diagnostic construct. The article analyzes the dynamics of ideas about the causes and the nature of psychological trauma manifestations under the influence of extreme stress factors, which is reflected in the current nomenclatures of mental and somatic disorders. A comparative analysis of the specific characteristics of various types of psychological traumas that intersect with the term complex PTSD in the conceptual field of trauma psychology is presented. The basic characteristics of complex psychological trauma that distinguish it from similar terms are defined, and the ways of further research in this direction are outlined.

Keywords: complex psychological trauma, extreme stress, stressful mental disorder, complex PTSD, developmental trauma, interpersonal trauma.

Column: Clinical psychology


For Reference

  1. Brewin C.R. et al. A review of current evidence regarding the ICD-11 proposals for diagnosing PTSD and complex PTSD. Clinical Psychological Review, 2017. Vol. 58, pp. 1–15. DOI:10.1016/j.cpr.2017.09.001
  2. Berto C. et al. Abnormal emotional processing in maltreated children diagnosed of Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Child Abuse & Neglect, 2017. Vol. 73, pp. 42–50. DOI:10.1016/j.chiabu.2017.09.020
  3. van Dijke A. et al. Association of childhood complex trauma and dissociation with complex posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms in adulthood. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 2015. Vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 428–441. DOI:10.1080/15299732.2015.1016253
  4. Bremness A., Polzin W. Commentary: Developmental trauma disorder: a missed opportunity in DSM-V [Elektronnyi resurs]. Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2014. Vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 142–145. URL: (Accessed 17.03.2020).
  5. Breslau N., Kesssler R.C. The stressor criterion in DSM-IV posttraumatic stress disorder an empirical investigation. Biological Psychiatry, 2001. Vol. 50, no. 9, pp. 699–704. DOI:10.1016/s0006-3223(01)01167-2
  6. Lueger-Schuster B. et al. Child abuse and neglect in institutional settings, cumulative lifetime traumatization, and psychopathological long-term correlates in adult survivors: The Vienna Institutional Abuse Study. Child Abuse & Neglect, 2018. Vol. 76, pp. 488–501. DOI:10.1016/j.chiabu.2017.12.009
  7. Dugal C. et al. Childhood Interpersonal Trauma and its repercussions in adulthood: an analysis of psychological and interpersonal sequelae. In El-Baalbaki G., Fortin C. (eds.), A Multidimensional Approach to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – from Theory to Practice. Rijeka: INTOCH, 2016. 244 p. DOI:10.5772/64476
  8. Giourou E. et al. Complex posttraumatic stress disorder: The need to consolidate a distinct clinical syndrome or to reevaluate features of psychiatric disorders following interpersonal trauma? World journal of psychiatry, 2018. Vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 12–19. DOI:10.5498/wjp.v8.i1.12
  9. van Nieuwenhove K. et al. Core conflict relationship patterns in complex trauma: A single-case study. Psychodynamic Practice, 2018. Vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 245–260. DOI:10.1080/14753634.2018.1498801
  10. Steine I.M. et al. Cumulative childhood maltreatment and its dose-response relation with adult symptomatology: findings in a sample of adult survivors of sexual abuse. Child Abuse & Neglect, 2017. Vol. 65, pp. 99–111. DOI:10.1016/j.chiabu.2017.01.008
  11. Damir D., Toader E. Posttraumatic Stress Syndrome – Ethical and Biopsychosocial Implications. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2014. Vol. 149, pp. 276–279. DOI:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.08.229
  12. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders : DSM-5. 5th ed. Washington DC; London: American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013. 970 p. DOI:10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596
  13. Van der Kolk B.A. et al. Disorders of extreme stress: The empirical foundation of a complex adaptation to trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 2005. Vol. 18, no. 5, pp. 389–399. DOI:10.1002/jts.20047
  14. Karatzias T. et al. Evidence of distinct profiles of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex posttraumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) based on the new ICD-11 trauma questionnaire (ICD-TQ). Journal of Affective Disorders, 2017. Vol. 207, pp. 181–187. DOI:10.1016/j.jad.2016.09.032
  15. Ford J.D. Complex trauma and complex posttraumatic stress disorder. In Gold S.N. (ed.), APA handbooks in psychology. APA handbook of trauma psychology: Foundations in knowledge. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2017, pp. 281–305. DOI:10.1037/0000019-015
  16. Ford J.D. Complex Trauma and Development Trauma Disorder in Adolescence. Adolescent Psychiatry, 2017. Vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 220–235. DOI:10.2174/2210676608666180112160419
  17. Gerwitz A., Forgatch M., Wieling E. Parenting practices as potential mechanisms for child adjustment following mass trauma. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 2008. Vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 177–192. DOI:10.1111/j.1752-0606.2008.00063.x
  18. Hebert M., Langevin R., Oussaid E. Cumulative childhood trauma, emotion regulation, dissociation, and behavior problems in school-aged sexual abuse victims. Journal of Affective Disorders, 2018. Vol. 225, pp. 306–312. DOI:10.1016/j.jad.2017.08.044
  19. Herman J.L. Complex PTSD: A syndrome in survivors of prolonged and repeated trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 1992. Vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 377–391. DOI:10.1007/BF00977235
  20. Herman J.L. Trauma and recovery. New York: Basic Books, 1997. 290 p.
  21. O’Neill L. et al. Hidden burdens: a review of intergenerational, historical and complex trauma, implications for indigenous families. Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, 2018. Vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 173–186. DOI:10.1007/s40653-016-0117-9
  22. Berthelot N. et al. Intergenerational transmission of attachment in abused and neglected mothers: the role of trauma‐specific reflective functioning. Infant Mental Health Journal, 2015. Vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 200–212. DOI:10.1002/imhj.21499
  23. World Health Organization. International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10) [Elektronnyi resurs]. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2004. 1200 p. URL: (Accessed 01.02.20).
  24. Isobel S., Goodyear M., Foster K. Psychological trauma in the context of familial relationships: a concept analysis. Trauma, Violence and Abuse, 2017. Vol. 20, no. 4, pp. 549–559. DOI:10.1177/1524838017726424
  25. Kinsler Ph.J. Complex psychological trauma: the centrality of relationship. London; New York: Routledge, 2017. 200 p.
  26. Luxenberg T., Spinazzola J., van der Kolk B. Complex Trauma Disorders of Extreme Stress (DESNOS), Part One: Assessment [Elektronnyi resurs]. Directions in Psychiatry, 2001. Vol. 21, no. 25, pp. 372–392. URL: (Accessed 01.02.20).
  27. McLaughlin K.A., Sheridan M.A. Beyond cumulative risk: A dimensional approach to childhood adversity. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2016. Vol. 25, no. 4, pp. 239–245. DOI:10.1177/0963721416655883
  28. Mosquera D., Steele K. Complex trauma, dissociation and Borderline Personality Disorder: working with integration failures. European Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 2017. Vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 63–71. DOI:10.1016/j.ejtd.2017.01.010
  29. Platt M.G., Freyd J.J. Betray my trust, shame on me: Shame, dissociation, fear, and betrayal trauma. Psychological trauma: theory, research, practice, and policy, 2015. Vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 398–404. DOI:10.1037/tra0000022
  30. Schmid M., Peterman F., Fegert J.M. Developmental trauma disorder: pros and cons of including formal criteria in the psychiatric diagnostic systems [Elektronnyi resurs]. BMS Psychiatry, 2013. Vol. 13, no. 3, 12 p. URL: (Accessed 01.02.20).
  31. Spinazzola J., van der Kolk B., Ford J.D. When nowhere is safe: Interpersonal Trauma and Attachment Adversity as antecedents of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Developmental Trauma Disorder. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 2018. Vol. 31, no. 5, pp. 631–642. DOI:10.1002/jts.22320
  32. Tassie A.K. Vicarious resilience from attachment trauma: Reflections of long-term therapy with marginalized young people. Journal of Social Work Practice, 2015. Vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 191–204. DOI:10.1080/02650533.2014.933406
  33. D’Andrea W. et al. Understanding interpersonal trauma in children: why we need a developmentally appropriate trauma diagnosis. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 2012. Vol. 82, no. 2, pp. 187–200. DOI:10.1111/j.1939-0025.2012.01154.x
  34. Spinazzola J. et al. Unseen wounds: The contribution of psychological maltreatment to child and adolescent mental health and risk outcomes. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice and Policy, 2014. Vol. 6, no. S1, pp. 18–28. DOI:10.1037/a0037766
  35. Van der Kolk B. A. Developmental trauma disorder: Toward a rational diagnosis for children with complex trauma histories. Psychiatric Annals, 2005. Vol. 35, no. 5, pp. 401–408. DOI:10.3928/00485713-20050501-06
  36. Hyland P. et al. Variation in post-traumatic response: the role of trauma type in predicting ICD-11 PTSD and CPTSF symptoms. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric, 2017. Vol. 52, pp. 727–36. DOI:10.1007/s00127-017-1350-8
  37. Wamser-Nanney R., Cherry K.E. Children’s trauma-related symptoms following complex trauma exposure: evidence of gender difference. Child Abuse & Neglect, 2018. Vol. 77, pp. 188–197. DOI:10.1016/j.chiabu.2018.01.009

© 2007–2020 Portal of Russian Psychological Publications. All rights reserved in Russian

Publisher: Moscow State University of Psychology and Education

Catalogue of academic journals in psychology & education MSUPE

Creative Commons License Open Access Repository

RSS Psyjournals at facebook Psyjournals at Twitter Psyjournals at Youtube ??????.???????