The lack of recognition for complex PTSD by the psychiatric establishment means it is difficult for sexual abuse victims who might suffer from it to receive the right diagnosis.
“It’s powerfully and deeply ironic to me that women who experience profound trauma [ie sexual abuse] are pathologised as having a personality disorder,” explains Torontonian freelance journalist, artist and resilience coach Lisa Walter, 50, a sexual abuse victim who says she has been misdiagnosed with BPD. “I think it makes it easier for the world to flush us down the toilet.”
Complex PTSD usually requires different treatments from those given to patients with BPD. Sexual abuse should be treated with some form of trauma-related therapy, Van der Kolk says, while BPD requires learning to control one’s aggressive urges, improve one’s relationship with others, moderate difficult emotions and compulsive behaviours.