PTSD In Children And Teenagers

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder occurring in people who have experienced a traumatic event or a series of such events. Any person can be prone to PTSD, depending on the event they have experienced. PTSD is common in children who have experienced a brutal event at an early age. The following symptoms are common in children having PTSD – 


Re-experiencing the trauma

  • Reliving the traumatic experience in mind repeatedly.
  • Getting flashbacks of the event, as if the event is taking place in real. The child may see images of the incident, feel the odor, and recall every scene in the dream. 
  • Successive nightmares about the event that could last for a few weeks, months, or even a year.
  • The child may replay the traumatic event verbally or through acting.
  • The child may lose interest in studies and games because of trauma. 



  • The child tends to avoid thoughts, objects, places, or situations that may remind him of the traumatic event.
  • The child may not be able to recall the entire event and may miss out on a few details. 
  • The child may not give any response to things happening in the surroundings and may become numb to his feelings.


Increased agitation

  • The child stays vigilant all the time, scared that the traumatic event will happen again, or another event will take place.
  • The child may freak out quite often or feel scared.
  • The child may go sleep-deprived for some time. 
  • The child may lose focus from studies and also lose interest in academics. 
  • The child may react aggressively to certain things. 


A child who cannot express his feelings or thoughts about trauma in words may show the following symptoms – 

  • Aggressive or disruptive behavior
  • Fear of getting separated from parents or caregivers. 


How children get prone to PTSD?

While any life-threatening or traumatic event can lead to PTSD in children, mental disorder mostly occurs due to the following factors:

  • Domestic violence at an early age
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Undergoing severe injury
  • Experience brutal accident
  • witnessing or experiencing violence in school or outside


A child suffers from PTSD when:

  • He comes across a life-threatening or dangerous event. 
  • The event instills fear, panic, and horror in the child.


PTSD treatment is a complex process and depends significantly on the child’s symptoms and background. However, psychotherapy or talk therapy, family support, and adding medication to the treatment process can significantly help kids with PTSD restore a normal, healthy life.

Several PTSD treatment centers are located throughout the world that can help a child or an adult get rid of PTSD.


What kind of traumatic events can lead to PTSD in a child?

As mentioned earlier, any life-threatening or dangerous event can lead to PTSD. While any traumatic event can invite PTSD symptoms, some of the common traumas related to PTSD are:

  •  Road or air accident
  • Calamity or natural disasters, like earthquakes or floods. 
  • A terrorist attack or war
  • Crimes, like robbery, home invasion, murder or kidnapping
  • Physical, mental or sexual abuse (either of the child or anyone else in front of the child)
  • Neglecting the child
  • Problems at home like a house fire
  • Experiencing violence at school or outside
  • The untimely death of a family member or friend


While severe traumas often lead to PTSD, not every time after experiencing trauma, a person or child suffers from PTSD.


Factors that can impact the severity of PTSD in children – 

The following factors can increase/reduce the severity of PTSD:

  • Did the child experience trauma or witnessed it happening to someone else.
  • The relation between the child and the person who has experienced a traumatic event. 
  • The severity of trauma. 
  • Duration of the traumatic event.
  • Reoccurrence of the event or repetitive trauma. 
  • The child’s coping skills and support from family.
  • Health conditions of the child and his family. 
  • Support received by the child at home, school, and among friends. 


Common symptoms found in children with PTSD – 

Children suffering from PTSD most likely go through extreme emotional, mental, and physical distress. PTSD symptoms can be seen as early as three months after the traumatic event or may also take as long as a year to show up. Cases in which symptoms are visible soon after the event are termed as an acute stress disorder. Acute Stress Disorder has the same treatment as PTSD. 


PTSD symptoms may vary depending on the child’s age and the severity of the trauma. Some of the commonly seen symptoms in children include –  

  • Super anxiety when the child is separated from the family
  • Lack of sleep or disturbance in sleeping
  • Feeling upset or irritated
  • Feeling nervous and extremely vigilant
  • Freaking out after hearing loud sounds or experiencing sudden movements
  • Loss of interest in things the child previously enjoyed
  • Isolation and emotional detachment from family members and friends
  • Feeling numb
  • Inability to show affection
  • Aggressive or illogical behavior
  • Aggressive response to others
  • Avoiding particular places, situations or things that may bring back the memories of the traumatic event
  • Getting flashbacks of the event (feeling the traumatic event is repeating; may include watching or hearing some parts of the event in dreams)
  • Unable to differentiate between reality and dreams
  • Recreating the traumatic event through play, drawings, writings or verbally
  • Unable to focus on studies
  • Lack of concentration
  • Dreaming or thinking about death and dying
  • Thought of dying at an early age or losing loved ones
  • Regressive behaviors, such as bed-wetting or thumb-sucking
  • Physical complications, like stomachaches or headaches, with no identifiable medical cause


Some of these symptoms can also hint to other mental health conditions, like depression or an anxiety disorderYour child’s doctor can help determine the reason for these symptoms and suggest a suitable treatment plan to curb the disorder. More than medication, empathy works in the case of PTSD. If your child is showing symptoms of PTSD, you must take care of him in the best possible way. Talk to him and make him feel safe at home. If the symptoms persist, consult a doctor immediately. 

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