CPTSD in Pop Culture: Movies and Books that Depict this Condition

Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) is a psychological disorder that can result from sustained trauma over a long period.

Understanding this condition is key to enhancing empathy and nurturing those affected, which is why depictions in pop culture play a pivotal role.


They make the invisible visible, turning the often complex narrative of CPTSD into a relatable, digestible, and tangible experience.

Let’s embark on an explorative journey of CPTSD representations in popular movies and books.


In the heart of cinema, one film stands out for its insightful portrayal of CPTSD – “Room” (2015). Brie Larson, playing a young mother held captive for years, provides a heart-wrenching depiction of trauma.

After gaining freedom, her character struggles with overwhelming anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and difficulty adjusting to the outside world – hallmark signs of CPTSD.

It highlights how the after-effects of prolonged trauma can be just as challenging as the initial experience, if not more so.

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Another cinematic portrayal of CPTSD is “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (2012), based on the 1999 novel by Stephen Chbosky. The story centers around Charlie, a high school freshman dealing with the fallout of childhood trauma.

His haunting past and constant feelings of alienation capture the essence of CPTSD. By addressing the impact of abuse on mental health, this film reinforces the importance of empathy, support, and understanding in healing from trauma.


The Body Keeps the Score

Turning our gaze to the world of literature, two books deserve special mention. First, “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk, although not fiction, paints a comprehensive picture of trauma and its aftermath.

Van der Kolk, a world-renowned trauma expert, details how traumatic experiences shape the brain and affect our bodies. The book highlights the necessity of targeted therapeutic interventions, like CPTSD counseling, for survivors.


The second book, “Educated” by Tara Westover, is a memoir chronicling her journey growing up in a survivalist family in rural Idaho.

Her experiences of emotional, physical, and psychological abuse at the hands of her family lay bare the long-lasting impacts of sustained trauma.

Westover’s journey of overcoming her past and pursuing education is an inspiring testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

In conclusion, while pop culture representations of CPTSD are not replacements for clinical understanding, they do open up dialogues about this often misunderstood condition.


They foster empathy and awareness, encouraging viewers and readers to walk in the shoes of those affected by CPTSD. They reinforce the necessity of services like CPTSD counseling, which is vital for recovery and healing.

Through shared understanding and informed discussions, we can contribute to destigmatizing mental health and encourage those in need to seek help.

After all, understanding is the first step toward acceptance, and acceptance paves the way for recovery. Let’s continue this dialogue, reducing the shadows that mental health conditions often find themselves in.

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