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Welcome to a brand new Women In-Depth series hosted by Lourdes Viado and Carmen Schmidt Benedetti.  This series focuses on highly sensitive persons (HSPs) who have experienced complex trauma.    

In this episode, Lourdes and Carmen hope listeners will gain more clarity and understanding regarding how HSPs experience complex trauma.

Dr. Lourdes Viado is a psychotherapist for anxious and overwhelmed highly sensitive women in Las Vegas, Nevada.  She is a Myers-Briggs Typology Indicator (MBTI) Certified Practitioner and integrates Jungian psychology, mindfulness, neuroscience, and astrology into her work with clients.  She is also the host of the Women In-Depth Podcast:  Conversations about the Inner Lives of Women, which has been downloaded over 350,000x in 96 countries.

Carmen  Schmidt Benedetti is a psychotherapist for highly sensitive womxn in Sonoma County, California. She helps them to heal layers of unrecognized childhood trauma and create calm, balance and stability in their life. As a Certified EMDR therapist, Carmen guides adults in reframing their past from an empowered perspective, coming to believe they are ‘good enough’ and their needs and feelings matter.  


Topics discussed in this episode:  

  • Complex Trauma and Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) (1:34) 
  • Challenges in recognizing Complex Trauma (3:36) 
  • Understanding high sensitivity (4:06) 
  • Challenges and gifts of recognizing complex trauma (4:55) 
    • A sense of validation & relief (5:53) 
  • What is Complex Trauma? (6:59) 
    • On-going experience without a clear end point (7:14) 
      • Physical or emotional abuse or neglect in childhood (7:22) 
      • Experiences within early relationships with caregivers (7:31) 
      • A parent unable to engage or respond emotionally for a variety of reasons (8:39) 
      • child who is “parentified” and feels responsible for taking care of their parent (10:04) 
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study (10:56) 
    • Study conducted between 1995 and 1997 regarding experiences in childhood that result in health issues for the individual (11:15) 
    • Some examples 
      • Physical, verbal & sexual abuse and physical & emotional neglect (11:22) 
      • A parent dealing with substance abuse or an addiction (11:41) 
      • A mother who is a victim of domestic violence (11:45) 
      • A family member in jail (11:53) 
      • A family member with a mental illness (11:53) 
      • The disappearance or absence of a parent through death, divorce, or abandonment (11:58) 
    • Potential consequences of parent not being present 
      • Child taking care of their siblings (12:41) 
      • Dealing with bullying by themselves (12:42) 
      • Child possibly being less safe due to lack of parental supervision (12:55) 
  • Resources 
  • What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (14:32) 
    • PTSD is in the DSM V – the manual therapists use to diagnose (14:54) 
    • Insurance companies require diagnosis based on the DSM V (15:14) 
    • Complex Trauma can be missed or misdiagnosed because it is not in the DSM V (15:43) 
    • PTSD is generally more familiar and recognizable (16:14) 
    • Some overlap between PTSD and Complex Trauma (16:38) 
    • Common Symptoms of PTSD that can show up differently in Complex Trauma (17:03) 
      • Usually caused by one-time events 
      • Feeling raw or on-edge 
      • Emotion response to a particular situation is out of proportion  
      • Avoiding places, people or things that remind them of the trauma 
      • Disconnecting to things or numbing out through substance use or mentally checking out (17:44) 
    • Acute Stress Disorder (ASD): what happens within the first 30 days after a traumatic event (18:20)  
    • PTSD continues this response beyond the first 30 days (18:20) 
    • PTSD layered on undiagnosed acute Complex Trauma is often the catalyst for seeking treatment (19:42) 
  • Vantage sensitivity for HSPs (21:31) 
    • HSPs’ emotional intensity and depth of processing amplifies the trauma experience (22:07) 
    • Presents challenges for the HSP and the parent of an HSP trying to manage these intense emotions (22:24) 
      • HSPs can struggle to regulate their emotions (23:23) 
      • HSPs can experience shame due to their emotional intensity (24:02)  
    • Common misdiagnosis of HSPs (24:30) 
      • Bipolar due to lack of familiarity with HSPs and/or Complex Trauma (24:39) 
      • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (24:55) 
      • Treatment of the physical symptoms of HSPs (25:25) 
    • Finding a mental health care provider familiar with HSPs and Complex Trauma can best help the HSP work through the overlapping issues (27:15.) 
    • Approximately 40-50% clients in therapy tend to be HSPs (29:30) 
      • Deeply understanding HSPs will help therapists working to support their clients’ healing (30:50) 



Lourdes’ website: 

Carmen’s website:  

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study website:  

Dr. Jonice Webb’s website on Childhood Emotional Neglect: