Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health problem that can affect people of all ages, including children. A child with PTSD will continue to have frightening thoughts and memories about past events, such as natural disasters, wars, accidents, physical abuse, sexual violence, and even emotional abuse.
Symptoms of PTSD in children can begin immediately after the traumatic event occurs, or they can occur after 6 months or more. Some children with PTSD have long-lasting effects and they may feel emotionally numb for a very long time. Parents or their caregivers should understand that it is important to treat PTSD in children immediately because this condition is often a long-term (chronic) problem.
Recognizing the Symptoms of PTSD in Children
A child can even experience PTSD even though he is only a spectator or not a direct victim. He may be traumatized by seeing other people or even his parents experiencing violence or experiencing other frightening events.
There are several symptoms of PTSD in children that parents need to know, including:
- Frequently replaying the traumatic event repeatedly in thoughts or telling stories.
- Nightmares and other sleep disturbances.
- Becomes very upset when something causes him to remember the traumatic event.
- Lack of positive emotions such as losing interest in the things they used to enjoy.
- Persistent fear or sadness.
- Irritable and often have angry outbursts.
- Constantly looking for possible threats or worrying excessively and being easily startled.
- Having trouble at school because it’s hard to focus.
- Acting helpless, desperate or withdrawing from friends.
- Denying that the event happened or feeling numb.
- Avoid places or people associated with the event.
- Have physical symptoms, such as a headache or stomachache.
Because children who have experienced traumatic stress may appear restless, restless, or have trouble paying attention and staying organized, symptoms of traumatic stress can be confused with symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Overcoming PTSD in Children
Many people, including children, recover from a traumatic event after a period of adjustment. However, if your child or teen has experienced a traumatic event and has symptoms of PTSD for more than a month, seek professional help immediately.
Therapy can help with avoidance symptoms, unfocused and negative thoughts, and depressed or negative moods. A therapist will work with the family to help the child or teen adjust to what is happening and get back to life.
Mental health professionals who can help include:
- Licensed clinical social worker.
- Professional counselor.
- Licensed trauma professional.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is also very effective for people who develop PTSD. This type of therapy teaches you how to replace unhelpful negative thoughts and feelings with more positive thoughts. Behavioral strategies can be used at the child’s own pace to help reduce the child’s sensitivity to the traumatic part of what happened so that he or she is less afraid of them.
There is also eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR) combining cognitive therapy with directional eye movement. It has been shown to be effective in treating people of all ages with PTSD. While the last type of therapy that can be done is play therapy to treat children with PTSD who cannot directly deal with trauma.
In some cases, medication can help treat serious symptoms of depression and anxiety. This can help people with PTSD return to school and other daily activities while being treated. Medication is often used only until a person feels better, then therapy can help the person return to normal.