Monday 28 February 2022

Ad | Signs Your Child Is Living With PTSD

 **Trigger Warning: This article by health writer Maria Miguel discusses trauma and mentions common causes of trauma such as violence or death of a loved one. For us here at The Brick Castle PTSD is something we all understand very well - adults and children.**

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a complex anxiety disorder that is most commonly associated with adults. After all, adults may be more likely to experience a traumatic event due to the fact that they are no longer protected or sheltered by their parents. 

Boy on a boat ride at a theme park looking at a field of metal sunflowers

Unfortunately, we cannot always protect our children from everything, so they may experience a traumatic event before reaching adulthood. Though some children may bounce back with love, support, and counselling or treatment, some children struggle to go back to normal after the traumatic event has passed.

PTSD occurs when a child is involved in a major, traumatic life event. They can either directly experience the event, be a witness, or just learn about the event from someone else.

If you believe your child may have PTSD, then read on to learn about the causes and symptoms of PTSD in children and how you can help and support your child.

What Causes PTSD In Children?

There is still a stigma that PTSD is only caused by severe events, such as combat or near-death experiences. However, numerous events can be classified as traumatic and, therefore, may cause PTSD in your child.

Some typical events that cause PTSD in adolescents include:

  • An accident or severe injury
  • Any form of abuse
  • Sudden loss of a family member
  • Violence or bullying at school
  • Cyberbullying
  • Natural disasters
  • Experiencing or witnessing violence at school, home, or in their neighborhood
  • Serious illness

Though most children who develop PTSD either experience the event directly or witness it, some develop PTSD just from learning about traumatic events from their friends or loved ones. For example, hearing about the death of a family member or learning about a natural disaster that affected their parents can still be traumatic to the child. 

Girl walking away from us carrying funeral flowers Sunflowers

Signs Your Child May Have PTSD

Since PTSD is a complex disorder that does not have one specific cause or symptom, it may not be apparent right away that your child is living with this disorder. There are many symptoms that your child may exhibit if they are living with PTSD, and some are not always obvious. Some symptoms of PTSD include but are not limited to:

  • Nightmares of the traumatic event
  • Sleeping problems
  • Symptoms of depression or anxiety
  • Increased aggression; may even exhibit violence
  • Apathy and detachment
  • Constant nervousness or always on alert
  • Difficulty focussing
  • Both social and academic problems at school
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach problems
  • Disconnection from others
  • Avoiding people or places that are associated with the event
  • Increased thoughts about death

How to Help Your Child With PTSD

If you believe your child is living with PTSD, you should first have a child psychologist talk with them and make an official diagnosis. With an official diagnosis, it will be easier to create a roadmap of possible coping or treatment strategies.

Therapy and Treatment Options

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the most popular forms of treatment. During their therapy sessions, your child will learn to manage their stress and anxiety. They will also be able to process the traumatic event that caused the PTSD in the first place.

The psychologist may suggest other therapies and treatments to help your child. Popular options include prolonged exposure (PE) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR).

PE involves encouraging your child to face aspects of the traumatic event so they can process it. This may include visiting the site where the trauma occurred or visualizing the event with the psychologist.

EMDR combines traditional therapy with rapid eye movements. Studies have shown that these eye movements help the brain process traumatic events faster than conventional therapy alone and therefore have become a powerful tool.

In some cases, medication may be needed to ease the symptoms of depression or anxiety. Though this can be discussed with the psychologist, medication can only be prescribed by a certified psychiatrist. 

Familial Support

In addition to these treatment options, it is crucial that the entire family is empathetic and supportive during this time. Dismissing any of your child’s emotions or experiences will only lengthen and complicate treatment, not hasten it.

It is also important to admit the event happened and discuss it when appropriate. Denial will only keep your child in a state of trauma and may be harmful to your mental well-being as well. Talk with your child’s psychologist for tips on how to appropriately bring up with subject with your child. 

Bottom Line

PTSD is a severe and complicated mental health condition. If you believe your child is living with PTSD, then you should talk with a medical professional as soon as possible. Though treatment may be long and arduous, starting early can make a world of difference. 

If you wish to learn more about PTSD as well as how to identify and treat it, head over to BetterHelp for more information and guidance. 

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