I genuinely felt the need to write something on the effects of PTSD on children because of the heartbreaking situation at the US border and the number of children who are being traumatized by this travesty. Then I thought of the children who are being traumatized in Yemen, Syria, and then the list got longer and longer. I can’t understand nor accept the horrors being afflicted on them daily by heartless and unconscious leaders who think of only power and money when they let their most valuable assets perish and suffer from this life-threatening trauma. If we want to do better, we need to start with confronting trauma’s effect on ourselves and the world.
When you think of PTSD, you often think of military soldiers who have seen the horrors of war. PTSD is an after effect of being in the middle of a combat zone, but there are other kinds of war zones in civilian’s lives as well. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) also affects the survivors of childhood emotional neglect, physical or emotional abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, and rape can suffer deeply from the symptoms of PTSD(a one time occurrence of trauma) or Complex PTSD(occurs in people who’ve experienced extreme violence and stress over an extended period of time). With people who suffer C-PTSD, these stressful events make the person feel trapped and thus hopeless — they may be physically or psychologically unable to escape, as the children of war-torn countries.
Individuals, especially children, face combat and battle in invisible war zones that are incredibly traumatic and potentially damaging. According to the National Center of PTSD, children present PTSD differently than adults.
School-aged children between the age of 5-12 may not have flashbacks or problems remembering parts of the trauma, the way adults with PTSD often do. Children, though, might put the events of the trauma in the wrong order. They might also think there were signs that the trauma was going to happen. As a result, they feel that they will see these signs again before another trauma occurs. They think that if they pay attention, they can avoid future traumas.
Children of this age might also show symptoms of PTSD in how they play. They might keep repeating a part of the trauma. These games do not make their worry and distress go away. For example, a child might always want to play shooting games after he sees a school shooting. Children may also fit parts of the trauma into their daily lives. For example, a child might carry a gun to school after seeing a school shooting. Teens, on the other hand, will show signs closer to adults and exhibit more aggressive or impulsive behavior. The most important thing for you to do in both cases is to seek help.
The most effective treatment for PTSD for children called Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). One form of CBT is Trauma-Focused CBT.
- TF-CBT – The trauma-focused approach to psychotherapy was first developed in the 1990s by psychiatrist Judith Cohen and psychologists Esther Deblinger and Anthony Mannarino, whose original intent was to serve better children and adolescents who had experienced sexual abuse.
- TF-CBT has expanded over the years to include services for youths who have experienced any form of severe trauma or abuse. Early trauma can lead to guilt, anger, feelings of powerlessness, self-abuse, acting out behavior, and mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder, which affects children and adults, can manifest in many ways, such as bothersome recurring thoughts about the traumatic experience, emotional numbness, sleep issues, concentration problems, and extreme physical and emotional responses to anything that triggers a memory of the trauma.
- By integrating the theories and techniques of several therapeutic interventions, TF-CBT can address and improve the symptoms of post-traumatic stress in youth.
- There are between 8- 25 sessions.
Seeing your child suffering from trauma can seem like the most painful experience because it may remind you of your own trauma. However, I will tell you what is more painful, knowing you need help, not seeking it and watching their lives spiral out of control. If you and/or child have experienced trauma, please seek help from a licensed medical professional because it could save both of your lives. PTSD does not need to ruin your life. There are very high success rates with TF-CBT treatments along with other therapies.
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- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Child Welfare Information Gateway. Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy for children affected by sexual abuse or trauma. August 2012.
- Gillies D, Taylor F, Gray C, O’Brien L, D’Abrew N. Psychological therapies for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder in children and adolescents (review). Evidence-Based Child Health. May 2013;8(3):1004–1116.
- National Center of PTSD https://www.ptsd.va.gov
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in Children and Teens …. https://www.bradleyhospital.org/posttraumatic-stress-disorder-children-and-teens