PTSD in Children

Children can endure great sorrow in their lives. For some children, the pain of certain events may be too much to bear. As a result, they may develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Fortunately, there is hope for children who suffer trauma. Sad child

What is PTSD?

PTSD may follow a severe trauma. This may be something that happens to a child. It may also be an event your child sees or hears about.

Even violent movies or TV programs can have an effect. Symptoms of PTSD often appear a few weeks after the trauma. But sometimes they may occur months, or even years, later.

Children are at risk for PTSD after:

  • A rape or sexual assault
  • A car crash or other accident
  • Physical or mental abuse
  • Natural disasters such as tornadoes or floods
  • The sudden death of a parent or other loved one

Symptoms of PTSD in children

If your child has PTSD, he or she may have:

  • Terrifying nightmares or "flashbacks" about the event. Flashbacks are vivid memories that seem as real as the trauma itself.
  • A fear of people or places connected with the event. Your child may also seem withdrawn and unfeeling.
  • Angry outbursts. Your child might seem on edge most of the time. 
  • Sleep problems, headaches and other health issues. 

Treating PTSD

Children with PTSD can be greatly helped by special types of group therapy and specific medications. Being with other children in therapy will make your child feel less alone and will help him or her work through the pain. Medications can bring symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, and depression associated with PTSD under control and help the child live a more normal life.

What you can do

You can play a large part in your child's healing process. Start by finding a therapist and/or a psychiatrist with specific expertise in childhood PTSD. (Here are Psychiatric Associates' providers who treat childhood PSTD.)

Also, encourage your child to share his or her feelings with you. Offer your love and support. Recovery may take some time. But don't lose hope. With help, your child can look forward to a full, happy life.