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Children With Special Needs - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder


PTSD in Children
Children often are exposed to trauma as a result of the following kinds of events:

physical or sexual assault or abuse
family and community violence
experiencing or witnessing severe accidents
natural or technological disasters
life-threatening illnesses

Many studies have shown that there is a connection between children's exposure to traumatic events and psychological problems. These include not only full-scale PTSD, but also problems with:

peer relationships
relationships within the family
school activities and performance
sexual behavior (in cases of sexual abuse)
emotional development
depression and anger
physical health
substance abuse
feeling ashamed

PTSD symptoms in children may last for a long time, and may include:

disturbing memories or flashbacks
repeated nightmares and dreams of death
belief in omens and prediction of disastrous future events
pessimism about the future and expectation of early death
avoiding reminders of traumatic experiences
fear of re-experiencing traumatic anxiety
behavioral re-enactment (expressed as repetitive play)
emotional numbness (seeming to have no feelings, except perhaps anger)
diminished interest in significant activities
physical symptoms, such as stomachaches and headaches
feeling constantly on guard, or nervous and jumpy

In addition, surviving or witnessing traumatic events may intensify symptoms of other psychiatric disorders, such as:

attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
dissociative disorders
eating disorders
major depression
oppositional defiant disorder
panic disorder
separation anxiety disorder

Treatment of PTSD in children generally involves "talking therapies" (such as cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, or brief psychotherapy), and may include the prescription of medication by a psychiatrist. The goals are:

helping the child to remember the traumatic events safely
addressing the child's family life, peer relationships, and school performance
dealing with grief, guilt, anger, depression, anxiety, and behavioral disturbances
It is best to seek treatment from a professional with expertise in this area. Many therapists with this expertise are members of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, whose membership directory contains a geographical listing indicating those who treat children and adolescents.

Research and Education on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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