Many people, including children and teenagers, will go through traumatic events in their lives. According to some studies, up to 40% of children and adolescents will experience at least one traumatic event during their lifetime. While most people can “bounce back” from a traumatic event within a few days, weeks, or months, others struggle to cope with the experience and the memory of the trauma. These people, including children and teenagers, may develop PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Physical violence, an accident, a natural disaster, war, or sexual abuse are common traumatic events. Children or teens may have experienced these events themselves, or they may have witnessed them happen to someone else.
Whether a child or teen develops PTSD depends on many factors, including the severity of the trauma, how frequently it occurs, and how family members react to the event. A child or adolescent suffering from PTSD believes they are powerless to escape the effects of the trauma. They make an effort to avoid people or situations that remind them of the incident. Sometimes they will have memories or “flashbacks” of the event, or they may have vivid nightmares about it. These constant reminders make day-to-day life difficult, especially for young people who may struggle to express their feelings and experiences.
PTSD Symptoms in Children and Teens
- avoiding situations that bring up the painful incident
- Having nightmares or flashbacks to the trauma
- Performing in such a way that the trauma is repeated or recalled
- Acting rashly or aggressively
- Often feeling nervous or anxious
- Feelings of emotional numbness
- Having difficulty concentrating at school
PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) Quiz
Complete the questionnaire below to determine the possibility that you are exhibiting symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
PTSD Treatment for Children and Teens
It is critical to remember that if your child does exhibit trauma symptoms, they will most likely diminish and disappear within a few months. This is not to say that you should not seek the advice of a mental health professional for an assessment and treatment options if symptoms arise. The term “smartphone” refers to the ability to use a smartphone to make phone calls. Here are some common treatments for children suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common types of “talk therapy,” and therapists can work with children and adults using a trauma-focused style of therapy. A trauma-focused CBT therapist assists a child in identifying and correcting irrational or illogical thoughts about the trauma or people and situations they encounter in daily life. CBT typically includes psychoeducation about relaxation and stress-coping techniques.
- Play therapy – This type of therapy can be especially beneficial for younger children who struggle to express their reactions to trauma and understand of what occurred. Play therapists use art therapy, games, and other interventions to help children process trauma and cope with life’s challenges.
- EMDR (eye moment desensitization and reprocessing) is a technique that is becoming increasingly popular among mental health professionals. The therapy includes guided eye movement exercises as the child recalls the traumatic event and works through cognitions and emotional responses to it.
- Medication – While there is no medication that “cures” PTSD, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can sometimes help relieve symptoms in some children who are also seeing a therapist.
PTSD symptoms frequently co-occur with other types of mental illness or lead to other problems in children and adolescents, such as substance abuse, risky behavior, and self-injury. These issues may also need to be addressed during treatment to protect your child and help them recover completely.
You want nothing but the best for your child as a parent. Seeing them “held hostage” by trauma symptoms can leave you feeling powerless and unsure of where to begin. The best place to start is by listening to your child and refusing to dismiss their symptoms and difficulties. Ally with friends, family, and professionals who will support you and your child. Look for resources that can point you in the right direction at your child’s school, the doctor’s office, or your local community center. Assist your child in learning to accept and recover from trauma.
Remember that PTSD is treatable, and your child can have a healthy body and mind, free of symptoms, and fully in control of their destiny. What steps can you take right now to help your child move past trauma and into the future?