What is Complex PTSD?
Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Complex PTSD, which originated in the early 1990s, is a disorder that occurs when the patient experiences similar traumatic events as those with PTSD but repeatedly. Some of them are:
- Staying in war zones or being a prisoner of war
- Being a victim of torture, violence, kidnapping, slavery, trafficking, childhood neglect/abandonment, physical/sexual/emotional abuse
- Long-term exposure to domestic violence/abuse
As a result of these repeated traumatic experiences, not only do CPTSD patients have a longer, tougher, and more complex healing journey, but they also have additional symptoms that PTSD students don’t exhibit, such as:
- Depressive feelings that may lead to self-harm or suicidal thoughts
- Physical pain
- Relationship problems caused by a lack of trust
- Self-esteem issues, including constant feelings of shame and guilt
Since this is a relatively new diagnosis category under PTSD, tests are few and far between. One approach is to keep track of the symptoms - starting date, changes, frequency, and intensity - and the triggers. Another is by utilizing the International Trauma Questionnaire.
The International Trauma Questionnaire or ITQ is a self-report questionnaire with 2 subscales, 3 symptom clusters each, and 18 questions. The first half is symptoms for those who may have PTSD may be experiencing while the other is for those with CPTSD. To be diagnosed with CPTSD, one must be experiencing the symptoms of both halves. For a more comprehensive explanation of scoring and interpreting, look at the How to Score section and the FAQs below.
How to Test for Complex PTSD
Step One. Consult with your Patient
Before providing them with a test, it’s best to consult with your patient to know what’s troubling them, gather medical history, and conduct other tests to eliminate other diagnoses such as borderline personality disorder or any other personality disorder.
Inversely, ensure that you’re not misdiagnosing your patient with BPD. If they feel your descriptions of someone with BPD or symptoms don’t match their experience, then it’s best that you move forward with the test we’ve provided: the ITQ or the International Trauma Questionnaire.
Step Two. Access the Template
Access the template by clicking this guide's “Use this Template” or “Download Template” button. Alternatively, you can type the “Complex PTSD” keyword in the search bar in our template library on our website and app.
Step Three. Conduct the Test
When it is time to conduct the test, you have two options:
- Give the patient a copy of the template to answer before their next consultation.
- Guide your patient by having them answer the test verbally while you write down the answers and score.
Following the test, to be thorough with assessment, you may also ask your patient to track their symptoms - their frequency, severity, etc. - for the next consultation.
Step Four. Proceed with the Next Step
Once they have accomplished the test and made any additional requests you’ve asked, such as listing down their symptoms, set another appointment with them to diagnose or formulate a treatment plan.
Scoring the ITQ for Testing for Complex PTSD
To score the ITQ, tick the appropriate box according to the patient’s answer and how bothered they are by the problem mentioned in the items. Generally, if the problem doesn’t disturb your patient, give it a 0, and if it greatly affects them emotionally or even physically to the point of interfering with their daily life, score it a 4.
For this test, the patient mustn’t skip a single question as a diagnosis relies heavily on their answers for both halves of the test. Answering only the first or second half will result in a failure in diagnosing.
ITQ for Complex PTSD Example (Sample)
Here’s a sample to help you picture how this tool can help you diagnose your patient with Complex PTSD. Download a copy locally by clicking the “Download Example PDF” button above.
When to Use the Template of ITQ for CPTSD?
Any practitioner who feels like their patient will benefit from this test can hand it out to them and ask them to fill it out since it was designed as a self-report questionnaire. You, as a practitioner, will also find that you can use this template for the following:
- Differentiating borderline personality from CPTSD
- Differentiating PTSD from CPTSD
- Identifying the severity of certain symptoms to formulate a diagnosis and a treatment or management plan
- Guiding your interview flow should you want a more in-depth assessment or interview to understand the patient more
- Identify or have an idea of other disorders they may have developed, such as chronic illnesses, generalized anxiety disorder, or major depressive disorder, based on their answers
Who can Test for Complex PTSD?
Since PTSD most likely affects one’s mental health, any mental health professional may use this test for Complex PTSD and utilize it for their practice. However, for the sake of specificity, here’s a list of practitioners who may conduct the test and find our downloadable template helpful:
- Clinical Social Workers
- Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselors
- Nurse practitioners or psychiatric nurses
All of the aforementioned practitioners are qualified to provide psychotherapy and medication to those with PTSD; therefore, they may do the same with CPTSD since they are closely related.
Benefits of the Free Template to Test for Complex PTSD
Easy to Use and Understand
With simplified questions devoid of medical jargon, patients don’t need to research definitions and can easily fill out the test with their experiences as the basis.
Increased Patient Self-Awareness
Since this is a self-report questionnaire, the patient is encouraged to introspect and be self-aware of the symptoms they’re experiencing to answer the test as accurately as possible.
Structure and Guidance
There are several approaches a practitioner can take to diagnose a patient with Complex PTSD. However, should they need a starting point, guidance, or structure if they opt to do an interview, they can refer to this template and even use it as a resource.
Should this template be used as a guide rather than a resource, it aids in facilitating communication because practitioners can use the questions as a jumping-off point rather than asking more general questions that may cause the patient to go off tangent.
Patients who have Complex PTSD can be misdiagnosed to have borderline personality disorder or PTSD. By having them take the test, you can detect early if they should or shouldn’t be diagnosed with Complex PTSD.
Why Use this Complex PTSD app?
Carepatron gives you an ITQ template when you need it and more. Beyond being an app where you can find over 100 free, editable, and downloadable PDF templates of tests, surveys, assessments, and forms you need, Carepatron is also a leading practice management software in the healthcare industry.
What this means for you is that we don’t only provide you with resources but equip you with the means and tools to streamline clinical and business processes. If you download our app available on desktop, iOs, and Android and sign up for free, aside from the templates mentioned above, you’ll also have access to all of the following:
- A HIPAA-compliant and secure EHR for your digital notes, medical documents, and bill history
- Integrated scheduling and telehealth software applications
- An automated payment system for your client
All of these and more accessible at your fingertips anytime, anywhere with Carepatron. Give it a try today!