Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that occurs after a child experiences an emotionally or physically frightening event. The child is so affected by the ordeal that they develop frequent memories or flashbacks of it. When exposed to situations that resemble the traumatic event, they undergo severe emotional, mental and physical distress.
PTSD symptoms can start soon following the event and improve shortly after or they may persist long-term. Many times, PTSD started during childhood develops into a chronic disorder.
What are common PTSD symptoms? Signs vary, but you may notice any, or all, of the following in your child:
- Acting younger than their age (thumb-sucking, wetting the bed)
- Avoiding certain situations or places
- Difficulty concentrating
- Experiencing physical discomfort (headaches, stomachaches)
- Fearing death at an early age
- Having frequent flashbacks or intrusive memories
- Loss of interest in activities the child used to enjoy
- Lost touch with reality
- Having nightmares
- Trouble in school
What types of events trigger PTSD?
- Something that occurred in the child’s life.
- Something that happened in the life of someone close.
- Something the child witnessed.
Specific examples of events which typically cause PTSD:
- Abuse – physical or emotional
- Animal bites
- Automobile accidents
- Experiencing a natural disaster (such as a flood or hurricane)
- Invasive medical procedures
- Man-made tragedies (bombings and shootings)
- Sexual assault or molestation
- Violent attacks (mugging, torture, kidnapping, being held captive)
Can PTSD be prevented? As a parent, you may be able to reduce the risk of traumatic experiences in your child.
- Teach your child to say NO to someone who tries to touch them inappropriately or make them uncomfortable.
- Offer support and counseling to children who have undergone a traumatic experience.
Support prevention programs within your community and at your child’s school.
What should you do if you suspect your child has PTSD? Contact your pediatrician for a proper evaluation. If further assessment is needed, your pediatrician may recommend a comprehensive evaluation by a licensed behavioral health professional.
Early detection and intervention are very important, however, PTSD can be effectively treated.