The Blog

Blunted and Discordant Affect Sensitivity Syndrome -- hope for C-PTSD Survivors

Jun 19, 2023

Disclaimer: I love Jesus but I cuss a little. ~ Meg Quote by Greg Siegle, (psychiatrist and neuroscientist at University of Pittsburgh):

... "As far as we can tell with complex PTSD, in really stressful situations, you've got this coping skill that allows the prefrontal cortex to just shut off some of our evolutionary freak-out mechanisms and instead have high levels of prefrontal activity. So our bodies stop reacting [to the stress]."

In other words, in some moments of intense stress, we are super-duper good at dissociation. Our hearts don't pump as hard. Our brains cut themselves off from our bodies, so we don't really have that feedback loop of getting anxious. Instead, our prefrontal cortices blink online--we become hyper-rational. Super focused. Calm. Siegle explained it this way:

"If running away has never been an option for you, you have to be cunning and do other things. So it's like, this is time to bring all of our resources online, because we're going to survive this."

Siegle named this phenomenon Blunted and Discordant Affect Sensitivity Syndrome, or BADASS. What?! Did I really just quote this? YES, I DID. Receiving a diagnosis such as C-PTSD can be scary. Maybe we think thoughts such as,

I'm broken

I'm defective

I will never get better

Did it ever occur to any of us that our diagnosis may also be our super-power? Think about it! When COVID hit, who were the most powerful and calm embracers of the crisis? Trauma survivors. Toilet paper shortage? Not an issue. Illness in the house? We're armed. Money issues -- watch us get creative. Bring it. This is small potatoes next to what we have suffered.


I worked HARD in the hospital that year, as a chaplain in a pandemic. I was the only chaplain who would actually and literally go into the COVID-sufferer's ICU room and sit with them. I wasn't afraid. Something kicked into glorious high-gear in my brain -- my brain that said, "Oh, yes. This is where I SHINE." I was a hot-shot chaplain. Because crisis is my comfort zone. In the midst of intense fear lining the halls of the hospital like a bad scene straight out of "Stranger Things", I was an overcomer, comforting staff as well as patients. Because, along with a life-long diagnosis of C-PTSD, I have Blunted and Discordant Affect Sensitivity Syndrome. That's right -- I'm a badass. All of the times I had to creatively de-escalate my sister's screaming or my then-husband's rages, where I froze, spoke calmly and sweetly to avoid danger -- when channeled correctly -- this cool trait slays in the roughest of times.

You are not broken -- some things just ARE. You are not without compassion or "cold" -- your body inherently knows what to do in the middle of a crisis. This is valuable. Honestly, I would not trade in this mad-skill for anything. It is the gold that fills in the cracks.

We NEED people like us in this world. Some folks crumble. But not us. We become our amazing BADASS selves.

As you are working through the brave work of counseling as a survivor, don't forget how powerful and needed you are. We are a special breed. It is an honor to work with all of you strong, spirited, survivors out there!

Love, Megan