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
- Difficulty focusing
- Paranoia or anxiety that another experience will happen
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.
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.