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PTSD in Children

Exposure to domestic violence and physical abuse can lead to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in children.

Adults are certainly not the only ones who can experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after experiencing a traumatic event. Children and adolescents can experience the same emotional challenges and behavioral symptoms as post-traumatic stress disorder in adults.

More than two-thirds of children in the United States report having experienced at least one traumatic event at the age of 16. Of children who are traumatized, an estimated 16% will end up struggling with PTSD.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Children

PTSD can be observed at any age in children after exposure to a traumatic event. Some children are more likely than others to recover after a traumatic event, while others develop a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that could last months, years or even accompany them into adulthood. The definition is identical in adults and children.

PTSD in Children

Did you know ?

In young children, domestic violence is the most common cause of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Common examples of traumas that children can experience include situations like:

  • Sudden or violent loss of a loved one
  • School violence
  • Serious accidents
  • Natural disasters
  • Stressors related to the military family
  • Neglect
  • Deadly diseases
  • Sexual abuse / rape
PTSD in Children
PTSD in Children

Response to the traumatic event

The following cognitive and emotional responses have been shown to influence the development of PTSD in children:

  • Anger for the event
  • Repetitive thinking about the event (ruminating)
  • Prevention and suppression of thoughts related to trauma
  • Dissociation during or after the event
  • Higher heart rate at the time of admission, if necessary due to injuries during the event

PTSD symptoms in children

Children with PTSD develop symptoms, such as:

  • Recurring flashbacks and repeating the event more in behavior or in thoughts
  • Nightmares
  • Sleep break
  • Depression of mood and sadness
  • Inability to deal with anything that brings the traumatic event to deal with
  • Anger and irritability
  • Intense fear
  • Frightened easily and always alert for threats
  • An impotent or desperate attitude
  • Rejection of the event
  • Social withdrawal
  • Sensitivity to numbness
  • Restlessness or fidgetiness
  • Lack of concentration

Risk factors

Traumatic events that were life-threatening or caused physical damage may be a risk factor that influences the development of PTSD. Events involving interpersonal violence, such as a physical attack, sexual abuse or rape, are more likely to influence someone suffering from PTSD after the trauma.

Research has shown that between 30 and 40% of children who suffer physical or sexual abuse will eventually develop PTSD.

Advice for parents and caregivers

Although we cannot always prevent our children from traumatic experiences, there are some things that parents and caregivers can do to help their children find the support and resources they need to experience healing.


It can be useful to learn about the signs and symptoms that can occur at various stages of development. Often children do not want to open up on their own experience due to feelings of guilt and shame. By noticing behaviors or symptoms that seem different or out of the norm for your child, you can create opportunities for children to open up about their experience. The safer a child is from judgment or criticism, the more likely they are to become more open about their experience and the struggles they are experiencing.

Find resources

Take time to find resources. Many schools, from preschool programs to university campuses, can offer resources for students struggling with PTSD. If they don't offer the resources directly, they can certainly help you connect with the appropriate programs in your area. Children sometimes don't understand what they need and are looking for adults to help guide the road. If you are not sure where to start, you can start contacting the school or even talking to your pediatrician or other healthcare provider.


Keep an open mind about treatment. It is very likely that your child is encouraged to participate in counseling services as part of their PTSD treatment. This can be inconvenient for parents and caregivers, especially if the child has not been in counseling before. Share concerns with your therapist and make sure to ask questions about what your child can expect during treatment and any other way you can help. You may be asked to sit down and participate in the sessions.


Depending on the child's situation and age, medications can be discussed as part of the treatment. It is important that the drugs are carefully monitored by the prescribing professional. Make sure your child takes the medications as scheduled and share with you any adverse reactions or experiences from taking the drug, is essential.

In summary, parents, teachers and society need to pay more attention to potentially stressful events that may be experienced by children such as witnessing violent acts or being involved in traumatic events. Even if they are exposed to such events, special attention and support can prevent trauma from becoming PTSD.


The contents of this article are for informational purposes only. This is not a professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition.

Content Research and Acquisition Specialist

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Anxiety affects children in ways you can't imagine. It takes away the glorious moments of their childhood from them. Feeling anxious in front of a crowd, while taking a test or when parting ways from their parents is deemed to be normal. However, there are certain symptoms of anxiety in children that can't be ignored and may need professional help.

Before getting into the symptoms, let us understand what causes anxiety. Anxiety is caused due to various factors like family, biological and environmental.

When the chemicals in the brain, called neurotransmitters, are not working properly, it leads to feelings of anxiety. On the other hand, if your child is living in an environment where things are not good, like the death of a loved one or constant fights in the family, all these contribute to anxiety and it only gets worse with time.

Every child worries and that's normal. But when you see your child worrying all the time for no valid reason, it's a sign of anxiety disorder.

Children are affected by different types of anxiety disorders but the most common one of them all is, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

Some of the symptoms of GAD include:

  • Fear of being alone
  • Insomnia
  • Urinating frequently
  • Isolating themselves
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Sudden outbursts of anger
  • Improper food intake
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Nail-biting
  • Being clingy
  • Always crying

These symptoms are usually triggered by more than one thing, like being worried about friends, homework and school. If these symptoms persist for six months or more, then it's time to seek professional help.

A child with GAD finds it difficult to control herself from worrying and this causes her distress. In most of the cases, one thing leads to the other. For example, she must have not slept all night due to insomnia, now this leads to her not concentrating in class and finding faults with her friends.

Generalized anxiety disorder also has physical symptoms such as

  • Headaches
  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness

It is advisable to allow the teachers at school to detect symptoms of any sort, as it is highly unlikely that only you would be able to figure it out on your own by observing your child's behaviour at home.

Your child not participating in extracurricular activities and limiting their interaction with friends at school, these are the signs of their mental health not being well. Turns out, children also end up not doing their homework in such cases and some even refuse to go to school.

In addition to this, the other type of anxiety disorder that is quite common is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

The act of doing something repeatedly in order to get rid of the worries inside your head is known as OCD. While adults and teens are mainly diagnosed with OCD, kids are no exception.

Children with OCD tend to have recurrent thoughts about certain things. They do other things like brushing their teeth for longer periods of time, washing hands a lot, or repeating certain actions and words.

Selective mutism is another type of anxiety disorder which is mostly overlooked because it has no specific symptoms. Children with selective mutism usually come off as a shy personality. They find it hard to open up to people at school or family functions, and rather avoid initiating conversations.

The first step towards helping your child with anxiety is to talk to them about the things they are worried about. Make them feel good and show that you care about their feelings and understand them.

In case you fail to treat your child's anxiety by yourself, an appointment with a doctor could help. You can either talk to the doctor on your own or with your child. 

Think for a moment how we treat our friends. We laugh with them, share good times, listen to them, and always try to be fair. We comfort them when things are going bad, and we would never interrupt them or allow ourselves to be distracted while they are talking to us. In the workplace, we treat our coworkers with respect...distracted while they are talking to us. In the workplace, we treat our coworkers with respect and would not dare tell them to shut up or accept a kind gesture without saying thank you. But how do we treat our spouses and children when we get home out of the view of people who admire us.

Happiness is how we treat our families

Last week I went to a banquet where the speaker spoke of the most crucial trait young people should strive to be successful in life. He said how we treat others in the workplace lays the foundation for success in life. If I were to add anything to what the speaker said that night, it would be that how we treat our families also lays the foundation for happiness in life.

For some people, it is easy to be kind to the people they work alongside. However, many successful people in the workplace are not always successful communicators in the home. A good example is a child that came quietly into the kitchen while his mother was cooking dinner. He startled her when he yelled the surprise. She became angry and scolded him for yelling and tracking mud into the house, and sent him to his room, even as he was trying to tell her something.

Later she felt terrible for yelling at her child and remembered he said he had a surprise for her. She went into his room, where he had fallen asleep on his bed. She gently woke him and asked him what the surprise he was trying to tell her about when he was in the kitchen was.

The child smiled and opened his hand to display a small crushed blue flower. “It’s for you, mom,” he said. “I found it in the grass, and I knew you would like it because it was blue.” The mother took her child in her arms and told him she was sorry for yelling at him. Children are so forgiving, and we should be glad because we sometimes fail to remember that they have feelings too.

Having a friend is a beautiful gift in life, and having a good relationship with our peers in the workplace is vital to our success. Jobs are relevant, but for most, jobs are what we do to provide for the needs of our families. If we don’t take care of the relationships we have at home, then we can lose our purpose in working so hard.

Children and spouses deserve the same respect we give to our coworkers and our friends. The essential things in life start at home. It is how we treat our families because long after the job is over, the relationship you build with your family will be there.

If we treat our children and spouses with respect we give our coworkers and share the best of ourselves with them as we do our friends, think about how relationships would grow and possibly heal.

Deana Landers
Read more at MorningCoffeeBeans

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