Lakeview Mental Health

The Consequences of An Improper CPTSD Diagnosis

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Although it was first proposed as a mental health disorder in the early 90s, Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) has only begun to receive mainstream attention in recent years. Due to this lack of familiarity by general practitioners, it can often be difficult for those suffering from CPTSD to get the proper support they need. In fact, it’s not just regularly mishandled but flat-out misdiagnosed. 

The consequences of improperly diagnosing Complex PTSD cannot be overstated. It takes an already challenging and life-threatening condition and makes it seem even more hopeless. So many people are suffering unnecessarily, not realizing that genuine trauma and mental health relief are actually out there, often just a call away. Therefore, in this article, we will take a deeper look at CPTSD, its relationship to BPD, the hardships and dangers related to a misdiagnosis, and why a proper diagnosis is so important. 

What is CPTSD?

Although CPTSD can be considered a variant of PTSD, which medical professionals are more familiar with, they also have major differences. PTSD is usually more episodic, stemming from a singular traumatic event such as a car accident or a combat situation, whereas CPTSD is a chronic form of trauma that compounds over the course of many years. People commonly experiencing CPTSD are survivors of long-term child abuse, human trafficking, and domestic violence. 

Whether it’s the length of time, the magnitude of unrelenting stress, or the feeling of hopelessness created by being unable to escape, CPTSD can become an ongoing, debilitating factor in someone’s life. It destroys their sense of trust and alters how they view everything and everyone around them. Despite its similarity to PTSD, the unique impact of CPTSD on a sufferer’s behavior is often what makes mental health providers misdiagnose it as something else.

person walking down a road


One of the biggest hurdles in diagnosing CPTSD is that it often gets confused for bipolar disorder (BPD), also known as emotionally unstable person disorder (EUPD). That’s because people with CPTSD live in a constant state of high emotion, struggling with anxiety and depression, which can lead to violent outbursts. This is completely understandable, considering what they’ve been through. Unfortunately, these aspects of CPTSD are what make it resemble BPD to uninformed mental health practitioners. 


That said, there are clear differences between CPTSD and BPD that a trained specialist is able to determine. For instance, BPD is usually based on a fear of abandonment, which is something that typically doesn’t affect those with CPTSD. BPD sufferers also lack a sense of self or personal autonomy. In CPTSD cases, the sense of self exists, but it has been distorted in some way by trauma. It’s also worth noting that BPD can be hereditary in nature, while CPTSD is almost always a result of mistreatment or other environmental factors.  

The Danger Of Misdiagnosing CPTSD

When a physical malady is misdiagnosed by a doctor, the results can be extremely detrimental, if not fatal, for the patient in question. This is no less true for mental health problems. Misdiagnosing CPTSD leads to improper treatment and the prescription of drugs that may only end up exacerbating issues caused by the disorder. For example, a mood stabilizer might help people with BPD function better, but it won’t solve the underlying trauma and mental health issues that fuel CPTSD. It’s like bandaging a wound without addressing the internal damage. 

What’s more, the lack of results and time wasted by a misdiagnosis can be harmful in their own right. Ineffective treatment just ends up adding to the despair CPTSD sufferers feel about their condition. One of the saddest aspects of misdiagnosis is that it keeps people from trying to find better avenues of help because they feel like they’ve exhausted all possible options. They think: “If this isn’t working, nothing will.” Many people with CPTSD could have avoided weeks, months, and even years of anguish, if they had only been properly diagnosed the first time.

The Importance Of A Correct Diagnosis

The good news is that beneficial and life-changing therapy options for CPTSD do exist. Even those who were previously misdiagnosed have seen incredible improvement within a short period after seeing a specialist. At Lakeview Mental Health, we understand the unique challenges of CPTSD and how to treat them, supporting individuals every step of the way on their healing journey. On top of more traditional therapeutic methods, we also offer a groundbreaking form of treatment utilizing ketamine. 

man looking thoughtfully to the side on laptop
one woman using headphones for online guided meditation

Ketamine sessions are overseen by a trained guide and nurse practitioner in a safe, comfortable location at our clinic in Everett, Washington. After an initial vital sign check and meditative exercise, The participant lies down on a couch and takes the medication by either mouth or intramuscular injection. Their guide stays with them the entire time, monitoring their oxygen until their journey is complete. 

Working within the brain, ketamine calms the fear center to reduce anxiety, revitalizes pathways that have been atrophied by depression, and allows participants to access their subconscious to resolve suppressed trauma. Ketamine also facilitates a critical learning period for 72 hours after the session, positively reshaping how patients relate with others and the world. This incredible drug has been highly beneficial in treating all forms of trauma, especially CPTSD. It empowers sufferers to start healthily rewiring their brains and break out of toxic or high-stress thought patterns.


Whether you’ve struggled with a CPTSD misdiagnosis for years or have only recently started coming to terms with your trauma, do not give up hope. Effective and holistic treatments are readily available and administered by licensed experts. Tragically, people with this condition have been ignored for so long, but we’re optimistic things will continue to improve as the information becomes more widespread. The strength and resilience you’ve had to demonstrate will serve you well on the path to a more stable and fulfilling life. 

At Lakeview Mental Health we provide a range of CPTSD treatment options, from ketamine sessions and beyond. Contact us today!

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