Post Traumatic Stress Disorder In Children

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder In Children | Trauma Can Lead To Unforeseeable Blocks To Fulfilling Your Child’s Potential

Post traumatic stress disorder in children: Trauma not just war related. What is it? Who is affected? Symptoms are intrusive, social, physical

50% of abused children get PTSD

Post traumatic stress disorder in children has been known by many names in the past including shell shock, gross stress reaction and transient situational disturbance. It was only in 1980 that PTSD was defined and coded by the DSM-III.

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Post traumatic stress is a cluster of symptoms that occurs after a serious episode of trauma – like car accidents, the sudden death of a loved one, rape, natural calamities like earthquakes and tsunamis.

They are divided into four categories

  • Intrusive – wherein the trauma is persistently relieved by the person
  • Avoidant – the person persistently avoids stimuli associated with the trauma
  • Physical – the person experiences over arousal leading to sleep problems or body aches etc.
  • Social problems like irritability impaired memory and violent outbursts.

For the diagnosis of PTSD to be made, the symptoms should be present for more than a month.

PTSD is seen in almost one percent of the population and maybe as high as 15 percent in emergency services like firefighters, ambulance, and police. The incidence of PTSD is increasing with increasing life stresses, advanced communication networks, and fast pace. More and more people are exposed to violent images and experiences.

There are three types of PTSD sufferers. Thirty to sixty percent of victims who actually suffered from the trauma can develop PTSD.

They are known as primary sufferers. They are the people who were directly affected by the actual trauma whether it is in a road accident or some violent crime for example.

The secondary victims are friends and family of the victim who are also at risk of developing PTSD. They may have either witnessed the trauma first hand like seeing their loved ones injured or they may have seen the images screened on television.

Finally, there are the tertiary victims, people who witnessed the horror live or on television.

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For every victim in a disaster, there are 8 others who suffer from PTSD. They may not have direct contact with the victims but having witnessed the life-threatening event live or on television. They may worry that they may suffer from such an ordeal and develop PTSD.

Rescuers and carers are better prepared for life threatening situations. However, their jobs require them to be involved in the primary victims and this makes them vulnerable to PTSD.

The meaninglessness of tragedy may get to them and personnel from the police, fire department, doctors, nurses, and counselors can be diagnosed up to two years after the disaster. They are called hidden victims and for every primary victim there maybe three hidden victims.

There are some people who are more susceptible to PTSD. They may be introverts with a family history of anxiety or depression. They may have stressful lives and may be stretched emotionally and physically making them more vulnerable to emotional disorders.

Rescuers and carers may not be prepared and trained to deal with the stress involved with their jobs. If they are not professionally counseled after a traumatic event or catastrophe they are likely to develop PTSD.

Children of the primary victims can also be traumatized. They absorb and understand more than they are credited for. They are unable to talk or discuss it and incorporate their fears into their play.

They may become more aggressive and the content of their games may be violent. They may develop sleep and appetite disturbances, may show fear and exaggerated startle response. Their schoolwork and friendships suffer.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder In Children | https://www.singhaniaclinic.com/causes-of-stress-in-children/children-and-stress/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-in-children/ Trauma Can Lead To Unforeseeable Blocks To Fulfilling Your Child's Potential

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder In Children

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Intrusive symptoms

The traumatic event is persistently lived by the person. These may be in the form of recurrent distressing recollections, recurrent and distressing dreams of the event and or flashbacks. The distressing recollections may occur at any time of the day and intrude on the day-to-day activity the person may be doing.

The person may feel guilty or anxious as they work out what happened, what they did wrong and how it could have been different. They produce strong emotions and distress.

Recurrent dreams of the traumatic event are experienced as nightmares. The dream content consists of the whole event or parts of it that were particularly frightening.

Flashbacks are particularly frightening as the person experiences the traumatic event as though it was happening again. The victim feels he has no control over the flashback and cannot stop the feeling.

The past and present may merge into one and the person experiences the event as it is happening in the present. They become unaware of their behaviour and of the people around them. Their behaviour then appears to be odd in that environment and they may feel they are going mad.

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Avoidant symptoms

The person avoids any stimuli that are associated with the traumatic event. The stimuli may be anything that reminds them of the event like smoke, a particular smell, texture, or a particular image. The PTSD victim, in an effort to avoid the stimulus, becomes severely phobic to it. This may then curb their movements and activities.

The person may become emotionally numb and become detached from people. In their effort to avoid feelings, thoughts, activities and places that may trigger memories of the event, they end up not doing things that are part of daily living like riding a car or going out in a group.

The victim may not talk to their friends or families to avoid answering questions about the event and thus become socially isolated. Other avoidance strategies include alcohol, drugs, and overwork, things that cloud their disturbing memories.

Psychogenic amnesia may be the body’s way of trying to forget the trauma. The person is unable to recall important aspects of the traumatic event or its immediate aftermath.

The other reason why this occurs is because the brain is unable to assimilate the all the various things happening at the same time. The sound stimuli are the ones that are mainly forgotten e.g. someone talking to them or giving them some information.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder In Children | https://www.singhaniaclinic.com/causes-of-stress-in-children/children-and-stress/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-in-children/ Trauma Can Lead To Unforeseeable Blocks To Fulfilling Your Child's Potential

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder In Children

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Physical symptoms

The distress results in some physical symptoms. Heightened awareness and hyper-vigilance are symptoms caused by anxiety. The victim is constantly seeking potential dangers to try and avoid them.

Sleep disturbances may include either lack of sleep or sleeping too much. Finally, the person may suffer from body aches and pains without any medical reason.

Social symptoms

The disturbance causes considerable impairment in the person’s social life or place of work. Due to depression that ensues, the person loses interest in activities that were enjoyable to him. These activities were part of their previous lives and held significant importance.

It has been construed that it is the way the person is punishing himself by abstaining from something he really enjoyed. Due to the sudden realization that life can be unpredictable and can be lost any time, the victim does not care about careers, marriage, and other such life events.

The victim also suffers from general levels of irritability and may lose their temper over small things.

Time

The symptoms should last for more than a month for the diagnosis to be made.

Developmental regression in children

Children who have suffered a trauma may regress by 2 to 3 years. They may resort to thumb sucking, bed-wetting, and baby talk and go back to a previously discarded ‘safety’ blanket or cuddly toy. They may lose newly acquired skills and become clingy and anxious.

Key features

  • Children can get PTSD when parents have been traumatized
  • Watching disasters on television can cause PTSD
  • Child abuse is the commonest cause of PTSD
  • Regression is a common symptom
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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder In Children

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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder In Children was last modified: March 19th, 2017 by Dr. Rajeshree Singhania

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