Choose to Thrive and Survive: Must-Read Books for Understanding Complex PTSD

In this post last updated on March 11th, 2024, we share our curated list of the best books about Complex PTSD we recommend. This page also includes books about trauma that often co-exists with Complex PTSD.

Are you struggling to understand and cope with Complex PTSD?

Do you long for insights and strategies to help you not only survive but thrive?

Here we unveil a curated list of must-read books that offer profound understandings of Complex PTSD and provide invaluable tools for healing and growth.

Complex PTSD is a complex and pervasive condition resulting from prolonged trauma, such as childhood abuse, domestic violence, or war experiences.

CPTSD affects every aspect of a person’s life, from relationships to self-image and overall well-being.

Understanding this condition is the first step towards healing and regaining control over one’s life.

Our list includes books written by renowned experts in the field of trauma and mental health, including Dr. Arielle Schwartz and Pete Walker, as well as personal narratives and self-help guides.

Each of these books about Complex PTSD offers unique perspectives, evidence-based approaches, and practical advice on how to recover from Complex PTSD.

Whether you are a survivor seeking guidance or a practitioner aiming to deepen your knowledge, these books will provide the inspiration and knowledge you need.

My Personal Experience with Complex PTSD

When I was younger, I was challenged with an out of control, anxious mind that never stopped or took a rest.

The reasons for this were numerous; one primary reason for my emotional dysregulation was the constant, unsettled relationship between my Mom and Dad.

I thought I was responsible for my Mom’s temper, their relationship, and any other negative event that occurred within my house.

So I always walked on egg shells, and I was constantly processing, analyzing, avoiding and managing to stay out of trouble and solve problems I was ill-equipped and incapable of solving.

Reading was a way for me to escape and quiet my racing mind.

It has always been a way I taught myself new things.

If I was trying to learn how to throw a curveball or master shooting free throws, I first went to the library to learn how the experts did it.

In one of my first severe depressive episodes in my late 20s, the library opened my eyes up to recovery books and programs for those struggling with alcohol, drugs, relationships, sex and gambling.

I dove into these books as well.

Even though they didn’t all represent who I was or what I struggled with, the books helped validate I wasn’t alone in my mental health struggles and that there were solutions.

The problem was, I wasn’t reading the “right” books, attending the “right” support groups or working with the “right” or best therapist for what ailed me.

Not until this year when I discovered the freeze and fawn dynamic in Pete Walker’s Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving did I actually feel 100% “heard”.

Every page spoke to me.

And then I dove head-first into Arielle Schwartz’s The Complete Complex PTSD Workbook.

There has not been one moment where I’ve felt I wasn’t part of the club!

But….

What I’ve learned about Complex PTSD is that I have to go through a grief stage for what’s been done to me, what’s been lost and the consequences of all that’s happened to me.

Complex PTSD Help Let the Air Get At It

As I told a friend, “I’m an open wound, completely exposed and the best thing I can do for myself is to not put a band-aid on. Let the air get at it.

So the grief I’ve felt is how much time I lost in life not finding these books sooner.

My regret

If I would have only found these books sooner, I probably wouldn’t have gotten to such a low point.
If someone would have told me about Freeze and Fawn sooner, I wouldn’t have had to go broke.
If only I had dug deeper on the internet, or asked a better question, I wouldn’t have suffered so long.

Complex PTSD Help

Had I known to look a bit further down on the library shelf for books on Complex PTSD, maybe all this stuff wouldn’t have happened?

In some cases, the books weren’t written yet, but if I were to have at least dug deeper into the original trauma, maybe it wouldn’t have taken so long for me to find the resources I needed to finally move on and out from the pain?

The child in me is bummed and sad about this.

The adult in me though, is thinking about those still suffering and confused.

I feel for those of us still asking the questions:

Am I an alcoholic?
Why can’t I make friends?
Why can’t I keep friends?
Why can’t I keep a job?
Why do I want to crawl under a rock when I meet new people?
Why can’t I get out of bed this morning?
Why can’t I explain what I’m feeling to my therapist?
Why do I get so angry out of nowhere?
Am I bipolar?

That’s why I’ve created this list of curated books that have been helpful to me and others in their discovery and recovery from Complex PTSD.

I dive into any books for Complex PTSD that helps me understand the nuances of the condition.

I look for C-PTSD books that provide straightforward insights into the condition, without unnecessary embellishments.

My favorite books on CPTSD are written by Pete Walker and Arielle Schwartz – both of these authors have suffered trauma themselves, plus write in an easy to understand manner.

If you have a book for Complex PTSD on your list that helped you, please add it in the comments below.

What is Complex PTSD Infographic - courtesy Complex PTSD Help

What is Complex PTSD?

Complex PTSD, also known as C-PTSD, is a psychological condition that develops as a result of chronic and repeated traumatic experiences.

Unlike traditional PTSD, which is often associated with a single traumatic event, C-PTSD stems from prolonged exposure to trauma.

This can include experiences such as emotional abuse, neglect, or living in an unstable or unsafe environment.

Individuals with C-PTSD may experience a range of symptoms that can significantly impact their daily lives.

For some, the consequences of feeling trapped at work and the resulting Complex PTSD flashbacks, dissociation and interpersonal conflicts can cost their job and career.

Other symptoms can include intrusive thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks and emotional dysregulation.

Although C-PTSD is not a recognized diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), many mental health professionals acknowledge its existence and the unique challenges it presents for individuals who have experienced prolonged and repeated trauma.

Complex PTSD Books

Each of these books about Complex PTSD offers unique perspectives, evidence-based approaches, and practical advice on how to recover from Complex PTSD.

Whether you are a survivor seeking guidance or a practitioner aiming to deepen your knowledge, these books will provide the inspiration and knowledge you need.

Dr. Arielle Schwartz Books

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Are looking for a holistic practitioner who will help your Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) healing?

If so, we highly recommend taking time to explore Dr. Schwartz’s CPTSD books; her books and workbook cover a very broad spectrum of therapeutic strategies.

What I appreciate most about her books is that she, like Pete Walker, are both very good at helping people healing from CPTSD to APPLY different methods they write on.

Her writings are not just theoretical – they are easy to comprehend and easy to apply.

Complex Trauma Books

These complex trauma books explore trauma’ impact on the mind, body, and spirit, while providing evidence-based approaches to healing and recovery.

They offer invaluable tools for building resilience, strengthening coping skills, and fostering a sense of empowerment.

Complex PTSD Books and The Polyvagal Theory

Healing from Complex PTSD requires a multi-faceted approach that requires various tools, techniques and modalities.

The Polyvagal Theory, when incorporated with CPTD recovery, has been helpful at different stages of recovery from Complex PTSD.

As you become more aware of your Complex PTSD condition, you can incorporate your understanding of the Polyvagal Ladder and The Polyvagal Theory to build self-compassion, increase your somatic awareness and identify people, places and things that represent safety to you.

Below are Polyvagal Theory books we recommend to support your recovery from Complex PTSD.

Complex PTSD and Relationship Trauma Books

Relationship trauma can occur as a result of any type of broken relationship: romantic, familial, or even friendships.

It is the emotional pain and distress that stems from the dissolution of a significant bond.

This trauma can have a profound impact on your mental health and overall well-being.

When you experience heartbreak, your brain undergoes a series of changes.

The release of stress hormones, such as cortisol, increases, leading to feelings of anxiety and depression.

Additionally, the brain’s reward system, responsible for feelings of pleasure and attachment, becomes disrupted, causing intense feelings of longing and withdrawal.

It’s important to understand that relationship trauma is not solely caused by the end of a relationship.

It can also result from experiences of abuse, betrayal, or neglect within a relationship.

Complex PTSD and Relationship Trauma can be co-existing conditions, especially when the relationships are familial and occurring over a long period of time.

These Relationship Trauma books can be helpful for you as you recover and heal.

Complex PTSD and Emotional Trauma Books

Emotional trauma refers to the psychological and emotional response to an event or series of events that are deeply distressing or disturbing.

These events can be singular occurrences, such as a natural disaster or a car accident, or they can be ongoing, such as childhood abuse or domestic violence.

Depending on the severity and the scope of the impact on a person’s reaction to the events or circumstances, healing is necessary.

Complex PTSD may co-exist with some forms of emotional trauma when the source of trauma is ongoing and/or occurred over a long period of time.

Because of this, understanding the relationship between Complex PTSD and emotional trauma is critical.

Here are some Emotional Trauma books we recommend that explore and spotlight ways to heal from Complex PTSD and emotional trauma.

Complex PTSD and Generational Trauma Books

Generational trauma refers to the transmission of traumatic experiences from one generation to the next.

These experiences can include events such as war, abuse, or major societal upheavals.

While the specific details may vary, the emotional scars left behind can be passed down through the generations, affecting individuals’ mental and emotional well-being.

Unresolved emotional wounds can lead to a range of issues, including anxiety, depression, and difficulties in forming and maintaining healthy relationships.

The effects of generational trauma may not always be obvious, as they can be deeply ingrained and may emerge as patterns of behavior or emotional reactions that seem unrelated to the original traumatic event.

These wounds can manifest in various ways, including self-destructive behaviors and recurring patterns of dysfunction in relationships.

Complex PTSD and generational trauma often co-exist, especially when an abused, traumatized elder passes along their pain and suffering to their children.

It can be helpful to heal and recover from generational trauma by incorporating aspects of Complex PTSD recovery strategies within your generational trauma healing.

Here are some Generational Trauma books we recommend that explore the relationship and highlight strategies that help healing from both Complex PTSD and Generational Trauma.

Other C-PSTD Books We Recommend

If you or someone you know is in crisis

Call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline  at 988 .

The Lifeline provides 24-hour, confidential support to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Call 911 in life-threatening situations.

If you are worried about a friend’s social media updates, you can contact safety teams at the social media company .

They will reach out to connect the person with the help they need.

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