Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health problem. It can affect people of all ages. A child with PTSD has persistent, scary thoughts and memories of a past event. He or she finds the event terrifying, either physically or emotionally.
The symptoms of PTSD may start soon after a stressful event. Or they may not happen for 6 months or longer. Some children with PTSD have long-term effects. They may feel emotionally numb for a very long time. PTSD in children often becomes a chronic problem.
PTSD may be accompanied by:
An event that triggers PTSD may be:
A child or teen may suffer from PTSD after one of these events:
A child’s risk for PTSD is often affected by:
Children and teens with PTSD feel a lot of emotional and physical distress when exposed to situations that remind them of the traumatic event. Some may relive the trauma over and over again. They may have nightmares and disturbing memories during the day. They may also:
Not every child or teen who goes through a trauma develops PTSD. PTSD is diagnosed only if symptoms keep happening for more than 1 month and are negatively affecting the child’s life and how he or she functions. For those with PTSD, symptoms most often start within 3 months after the traumatic event. But they can also start months or years later.
A child psychiatrist or mental health expert can diagnose PTSD. He or she will do a mental health evaluation.
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
PTSD can be treated. Early diagnosis and treatment is very important. It can ease symptoms and enhance your child’s normal development. It can also improve your child’s quality of life.
Treatment may include:
These measures may help prevent PTSD in children:
As a parent, you play a key role in your child’s treatment. Here are things you can do to help:
Call your healthcare provider right away if your child:
PTSD increases risk for other mental health disorders, including depression and suicidal thinking.
Call 911 if your child has suicidal thoughts, a suicide plan, and the means to carry out the plan.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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