In this Section

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Many people associate post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) primarily with adults, like a soldier in a war zone. While it’s true that experiences like war can lead to PTSD, it’s important to know that children can also experience PTSD right here at home.

What is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

When a child experiences or witnesses a traumatic event, such as a severe car crash, death of a loved one, violence or abuse, they may develop symptoms that can interfere with their daily life and development. If these symptoms are long-lasting (last more than one month), an evaluation for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be recommended.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may vary widely depending on the child, and may include:

  • Denial, avoidance or panic when asked to discuss the experience
  • Nightmares and other sleep disturbances
  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Anger
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Paranoia or anxiety that another experience will happen
  • Flashbacks


To begin treatment for PTSD, a child must first be officially diagnosed, which requires an evaluation from a healthcare provider. It’s important to have someone trained and experienced in PTSD in children, as asking a child to talk about the traumatic event may cause the child to withdraw and close off from talking, or may cause anxiety or panic. After determining a diagnosis, a healthcare provider can then develop the appropriate treatment plan. Treatment for PTSD may include individual or family therapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, and medication.

Preventing PTSD

It’s unclear why PTSD develops in some children but not in others. However, what is certain is that one way to prevent PTSD is to prevent a child’s exposure to traumatic events, such as violence and abuse.