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PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in Children

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

AMBULATORY CARE:

PTSD

is a mental health condition that is triggered by a traumatic situation or event. Your child may have seen the situation or event, or experienced it. Your child may continue to feel sad or helpless after the event. Your child may feel anxious or scared, even when he or she is not in danger. These feelings can affect your child's daily activities and relationships.

Common symptoms:

Symptoms may get better after a few weeks or months. Symptoms may come and go over time. Your child may have one or more of the following:

  • 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

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

  • Your child does something on purpose to hurt himself or herself.
  • Your child has thoughts of or makes a plan to attempt suicide.

Call your child's doctor or therapist if:

  • Your child continues to have symptoms for more than 1 month.
  • Your child's symptoms become severe.
  • 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.

Treatment:

PTSD affects people differently. It is important to work with your child's healthcare provider to find the best treatment for your child. Your child may need one or more of the following:

  • Medicines may decrease anxiety or 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 can help your child learn to face the traumatic situation or event slowly and carefully. A therapist can help your child learn to control his or her mental and physical reaction. The therapist may also teach your child ways to relax muscles or do slow breathing when he or she feels anxious.
    • Cognitive processing therapy can help your child identify how the trauma changed his or her thoughts and feelings. A therapist can help your child see the event differently. This may help change how your child feels and decrease his or her anxiety.
    • Exposure therapy , or prolonged exposure, gradually exposes your child to the trauma in a safe way. A therapist may help your child write, imagine, or visit the place where the event happened. This can help your child learn how to handle his or her thoughts and feelings.
    • Play therapy can help your child express his or her thoughts and feelings through play.
    • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of exposure therapy. Providers help your child focus on sounds, or hand or eye movements. This helps your child's brain process the difficult memories.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

What you can do to help your 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.

Find support and more information:

  • 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
    PO Box 2345
    Rockville , MD 20847-2345
    Phone: 1- 800 - 988
    Web Address: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org OR https://988lifeline.org/chat/
  • Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
    8120 Penn Ave. S., Ste. 470
    Bloomington , Minnesota 55431
    Phone: 1- 952 - 946-7998
    Web Address: http://www.save.org or https://save.org/find-help/international-resources/

Follow up with your child's doctor or therapist as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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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.

Further information

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