Understanding Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Children can endure great sorrow and
even trauma in their lives. For some children, the distress of certain events may
much to bear. As a result, they may develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder
(PTSD). Fortunately, there is hope for children who experience trauma. Ask a trusted
counselor or healthcare provider for help.
What is PTSD?
Posttraumatic stress disorder may
follow a severe trauma. This may be something the child experiences directly. It may
also be an event your child sees or hears about indirectly. Even violent movies or
programs can have a traumatic effect. Symptoms of PTSD often appear a few weeks after
the trauma. But sometimes they may occur months, or even years, later.
Symptoms of PTSD in children
If your child has PTSD, they may
Terrifying nightmares or “flashbacks” about the event. Flashbacks are
vivid memories that seem as real as the trauma itself.
of people or places connected with the event.
Your child may also seem
withdrawn and unfeeling.
Angry outbursts. Your child also might have trouble
sleeping or concentrating. They may seem on edge. They may complain of headaches
or other health problems.
Reactions to trauma cues that re-trigger the event.
Cues include sights, sounds, people, smells, and places that remind the child
of the event. They can result in repetitive play and a reenactment of the
traumatic event or themes of the traumatic event (such as someone dying).
Children with PTSD can be greatly
helped by special types of individual and group therapy as well as by certain medicines.
A form of therapy called trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy is effective
both individual and group settings for treating PTSD in children. Children with PTSD
benefit from certain other forms of therapy also. Being with other children may make
your child feel less alone and will help your child work through their pain. Medicines
may help control symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, and depression linked to PTSD.
may help the child live a more normal life.
What you can do
You can play a large part in your
child’s healing process. Accept your child's emotions and encourage your child to
their feelings with you or a trusted professional. Offer your love and support. Find
maintain professional mental health support for your child. If your child's symptoms
interfering with their schoolwork or their friendships, ask school staff for additional
support. Recovery may take some time. But don’t lose hope. With help, your child can
look forward to a full, happy life.
Children are at risk for PTSD after:
A rape or sexual assault
A car accident or plane
Physical or mental abuse
- Being the victim of or witness to violence, such as riots or
Natural disasters such as
earthquakes or floods
The sudden death of a parent
or other loved one