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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder In Children

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

What is post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

PTSD is a condition that may occur after your child has experienced a traumatic situation or event. This event may have caused him or her to feel intense fear, pain, or sorrow. Your child may think he or she, or someone close to him or her, is going to get hurt or die. Your child may also continue to feel helpless after the event. These feelings affect his or her daily activities and relationships.

What causes PTSD?

  • An accident
  • A crime done to your child or a crime he or she may have seen, such as a robbery
  • A serious disease, such as cancer, or the death of a loved one
  • A natural disaster, such as a flood, earthquake, hurricane, or tornado
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Violence, war, or terrorism

What are the signs and symptoms of PTSD?

  • Nightmares, wetting the bed after he or she is potty trained
  • Acting out or describing scary events, especially during playtime
  • Violent behavior or extreme temper tantrums
  • Forgetting how to talk or unable to talk
  • Not wanting to be left alone, always needing a safe adult nearby

How is PTSD diagnosed?

Healthcare providers will ask about your child's symptoms and use a guide to diagnose PTSD. Your child has PTSD if he or she has had all of the following for at least 1 month:

  • Your child has seen, faced, or experienced an event that involved serious injury, near death, or death.
  • Your child's response to the event was great fear, helplessness, or horror.
  • Your child has at least 1 constant symptom of re-experiencing the traumatic event.
  • Your child has at least 3 symptoms of avoidance.
  • Your child has at least 2 hyperarousal symptoms.
  • Your child's symptoms cause distress and affect his or her daily activities, school, and relationships.

How is PTSD treated?

  • Medicines may be given. They help decrease anxiety, depression, or help your child stay calm and relaxed.
  • Therapy may be done in a group or one on one with a therapist. Family and friends are also an important part of recovery.
    • Cognitive behavior therapy helps your child learn to face the feared object or situation slowly and carefully. Your child will also learn to control his or her mental and physical reactions of fear.
      • During cognitive processing therapy , a therapist helps your child identify which thoughts about the trauma cause anxiety. He or she will help your child see the event differently. This may help your child change his or her thoughts and decrease anxiety.
      • During prolonged exposure , a therapist helps your child work through thoughts, feelings, and memories about the trauma. A therapist helps your child learn how to handle his or her thoughts and feelings. This can decrease your child's fear or anxiety.
    • Talk therapy may be one or more meetings with a therapist to have crisis counseling. Your child may have this right after a traumatic event to prevent or decrease further emotional problems.
    • Play therapy may also help your child work through his or her anxiety in a safe environment.
    • Relaxation therapy may help your child feel less physical and emotional stress. Deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and music are some forms of relaxation therapy.

What can I do to help my child?

  • Talk openly about what happened and listen to your child's worries.
  • Teach people who are close to your child about PTSD, including his or her teacher. Work together to help your child.

Where can I find support and more information?

  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Public Information & Communication Branch
    6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 8184, MSC 9663
    Bethesda , MD 20892-9663
    Phone: 1- 301 - 443-4513
    Phone: 1- 866 - 615-6464
    Web Address: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • Your child hurts himself, herself, or others.

When should I call my child's doctor?

  • Your child talks about harming himself or herself.
  • Your child is not sleeping well or is sleeping too much.
  • You feel you cannot help your child at home.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2018 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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