Just like adults, children can suffer from PTSD. The symptoms may look a little different in children, but it’s still PTSD.
First off, what is PTSD? PTSD is Posttraumatic stress disorder. This can occur after a very traumatic event. In prior history we associated PTSD with soldiers who had faced battle. Now we understand that it can affect anyone.
What can Cause PTSD in Children
- Bad accidents, such as car wreck
- Invasive medical procedures, especially for children younger than age 6
- Animal bites
- Natural disasters, such as floods or earthquakes
- Manmade tragedies, such as bombings
- Violent personal attacks, such as a mugging, rape, torture, or kidnapping
- Physical abuse
- Sexual assault
- Sexual abuse
- Witnessing the death of a loved one
- Emotional abuse or bullying
Signs and Symptoms of PTSD in Children
- Have problems sleeping
- Have nightmares
- Feel depressed or grouchy
- Not understand why they are crying
- Change in eating habits
- Feel nervous, jittery, or alert and watchful (on guard)
- Lose interest in things they used to enjoy. They may seem detached or numb and are not responsive.
- Have trouble feeling affectionate
- Be more aggressive than before, even violent
- Stay away from certain places or situations that bring back memories
- Have flashbacks. These can be images, sounds, smells, or feelings. The child may believe the event is happening again.
- Lose touch with reality
- They may cling to the person that they feel safe with
- Reenact an event for seconds or hours or, in rare cases, days
- Have problems in school
- Have trouble focusing
- Worry about dying at a young age
- Act younger than their age, such as thumb-sucking or bedwetting
- Have physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomachaches
- Sometimes PTSD in children can look like ADHD
What to do as a Parent
If you notice these changes in your child and they persist, talk to their doctor. Get your child into counseling and keep every appointment. Listen to your child when they want to talk about what happened. You have to admit that the event happened and acknowledge it for your child. Let the child’s school counselor know what happened so they can check in on your child. Talk to their doctor about medications that could help your child. Take it seriously! Don’t just pass it off as nothing. Understand that your child may need you more. They may cling to you because you are their safety net.