Many survivors of complex trauma often spend a lifetime being consistently misdiagnosed, collecting all manner of labels and badges along the way.

I have had what I now know are ’emotional flashbacks’ in front of all kinds of professionals – including police officers, paramedics, A&E staff, GPs, therapists, counsellors, psychiatrists, community mental health workers – and not once, has somebody recognised the emotional flashback for what it was, or saw it as a sign of Complex PTSD.

Now that I know all of this, and see how simple it really is, it astounds me that this is so often missed and misdiagnosed. Sadly, it often takes survivors decades to come to validate their experiences for the abuse it really was.

If trauma informed care and practice was prevalent, then all it would take is a simple question – “What happened to you?” – to reach the proper diagnosis of Complex PTSD quickly and compassionately.

Three years ago, if I was taking part in the survey for a research project, I would have answered ‘no’ to questions about a traumatic or abusive childhood. The shame I felt from my experience was so great that I was still trying to blame myself for it and dismiss what had happened, as the adults around me had done. 


I can’t help but be angered by how simple it seems, and yet how wrong western mental health systems get it. The worst is the ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’ label. It is no different to the horrific labelling of women in the Victorian era as ‘hysterical’; they were in fact also trauma survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

Individuals displaying ‘Borderline Personality Disorder symptoms’ are actually survivors of trauma, who need to be healed as Complex PTSD survivors, rather than stigmatised as patients with an inherent personality disorder. 

Viewed in this compassionate, trauma-informed light, these ‘symptoms’ are in fact perfectly reasonable behaviours attributed to unvalidated past trauma still stuck within the body and emotional system.

Instead of recognising this and helping a survivor heal, labels such as Borderline Personality Disorder can shame an already shamed individual even further.

It is time to abolish the continued abuse of trauma survivors specifically with the Borderline Personality Disorder label.

It is time to acknowledge that labels such as ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety’ are not without cause; they are in fact reasonable responses to stuck traumas within the body.

It is time to stop misdiagnosing survivors of complex trauma, thereby continuing to invalidate their experiences and continue their pattern of abuse.