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Why you struggle with anger – Could you have Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD)?

I am doing a two-part series on CPTSD and anger. In the first part, I will briefly introduce what CPTSD is, looking at how anger shows itself with CPTSD Part 2 will get into more detail on how and why CPTSD causes you to have anger issues.

What is CPTSD?

CPTSD is a severe form of PTSD and usually arises from trauma from childhood. This trauma is repetitive, usually lasts over a long period of time to the extent where the child feels there is no way out of it.

The child then adopts coping mechanisms to manage their life to help them to survive. Those coping mechanisms helped them to survive as a child but then it becomes normal and the child brings those ways of coping into adulthood.

I have done a previous article on CPTSD, you can read about it here.

When a child experiences trauma, they usually respond in one of four ways to cushion themselves against what is happening to them in their lives.

Fight – where you believe that power and control is what you need to feel safe

Flight – Where you respond to a threat by finding ways to flee from the situation

Freeze – Where you give up, disconnect, disassociate or numb out to cope

Fawn – You have taught her to appease your abusers to feel safe

These four ways are known as the 4F type (Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fawn)


There is nothing wrong with any of the 4F types. One is not better than the other. In response to a difficult situation, when we are emotionally healthy, we can access anyone of these appropriately.

It is OK to be angry and to try and control situations. The only issue is when you respond to all situations and difficulties with anger. As opposed to being assertive, set good boundaries. You can be aggressive to defend yourself when necessary.


A traumatic childhood is just trauma for a child

The first thing to say here is that, what is traumatic for a child is not necessarily viewed as traumatic for us as adults. Sometimes we look back at our childhood and think, in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t that bad, my parents were great etc. It is important to view our childhood through the eyes of a child and their experiences at that time.

So please don’t say, I had a great upbringing, nothing major happened to me, my parents were good people. That’s not the issue here, the issue here is that for you, as a child on an unconscious and subconscious level, you felt you needed to respond in anger to defend and protect yourself against whatever was happening to you.

People who respond in anger may have experienced one or more of the following as a child:

  • Witnessing violence
  • Witnessed domestic abuse
  • Experiencing violence and aggression either verbal, physical or emotional
  • Was bullied as a child but did not get any emotional support
  • Witnessed anger frequently as a way of responding to situations between family members i.e. all family members shouted and argued
  • Your parents did not demonstrate any boundaries for your anger as a child. Maybe they were quite passive and allowed you to get away with certain behaviours without any consequences.
  • Unhealthy Sibling rivalry to the extent you were scapegoated


The list can go on


Forms of anger

Anger can take many forms and it is not always shouting, verbally aggressive, physically violent. The most aggressive person can be the quietest as often you, as the victim don’t understand what is happening to you:


Passive aggressive





Type A




Demands perfection


Conduct disorder

Charming bully


For example, the charming bully. They can appear quite friendly some of the time. At times they can listen and be helpful. Then without notice, switch to using contempt to overpower and control others.

Obviously, they need a victim or two known as scapegoats who are seen as weaker than them. This could be a child, a partner, employee etc.


Narcissism is another example of where their aggression is a lack of empathy, exaggerated sense of importance at the expense of other people. They are entitled, selfish, very arrogant and judgemental in their attitude.


This article just gave a brief introduction to what the Fight of the 4F types is like. In the next part, I will talk into more detail of why you continue to be angry and why it happens.

Remember that if you understand yourself more, you will be in a better position to do something about it.

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