What Is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder In Children
Posttraumatic stress disorder is a mental health problem. It can affect people of all ages. A child with PTSD keeps having 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 long-term problem.
PTSD may be accompanied by:
Signs And Symptoms Of Ptsd
PTSD develops differently from person to person because everyones nervous system and tolerance for stress is a little different. While youre most likely to develop symptoms of PTSD in the hours or days following a traumatic event, it can sometimes take weeks, months, or even years before they appear. Sometimes symptoms appear seemingly out of the blue. At other times, they are triggered by something that reminds you of the original traumatic event, such as a noise, an image, certain words, or a smell.
While everyone experiences PTSD differently, there are four main types of symptoms.
Causes Symptoms And Risks
PTSD is caused by experiencing or witnessing single, repeated or multiple events. For example:
- serious accidents
- physical and sexual assault abuse. This could include childhood or domestic abuse
- work-related exposure to trauma. Such as being in the army
- trauma related to serious health problems or childbirth
- war and conflict torture
Not everyone who experiences trauma will develop PTSD.
The risk of getting PTSD depends on how the experience affects you. PTSD is more likely to develop if the traumatic event:
- is unexpected,
- Self help
How can the NHS help me?
You can speak to your GP about your concerns. They will be able to talk to you about treatment options and coping strategies. You dont have to do what your GP thinks that you should do. But you should listen to them.
Make sure that you understand the pros and cons of your treatment options before you make a decision.
Your treatment with be managed by your GP or the community mental health team . In some cases, your treatment maybe shared between both primary and secondary care. Healthcare professionals will agree who will monitor you.
Some people will get care under the Care Programme Approach . This means that you will have a care plan and care coordinator to make sure that you get the support that you need.
Look at the following section for more information on NHS treatment.
Adult social services
What other help is available?
There may be a different service available, such as employment or isolation support.
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What Can I Do To Help Myself
It is important to know that, although it may take some time, you can get better with treatment. Here are some things you can do to help yourself:
- Talk with your health care provider about treatment options, and follow your treatment plan.
- Engage in exercise, mindfulness, or other activities that help reduce stress.
- Try to maintain routines for meals, exercise, and sleep.
- Set realistic goals and do what you can as you are able.
- Spend time with trusted friends or relatives, and tell them about things that may trigger symptoms.
- Expect your symptoms to improve gradually, not immediately.
- Avoid use of alcohol or drugs.
Why Doesn’t Everyone Get Ptsd After A Traumatic Experience
After a traumatic experience, many people will have some trauma symptoms for the first month or so. Many of these symptoms are normal reactions to experiencing real or perceived danger. You can think about them as your brains way of protecting you from harm.
However, most people will process what has happened after a few weeks, or sometimes a little longer, and their stress symptoms will start to disappear.
Research shows that certain groups of people are at increased risk of developing PTSD. The risk of developing PTSD is decreased if someone can:
- access social support and
- causes mutilation
- involves children.
If you continue to be exposed to stress and uncertainty, this will make it more difficult for your PTSD symptoms to improve.
You may have got over a traumatic event if you can:
- think about it without becoming overly distressed
- not feel constantly under threat
- not think about it at inappropriate times.
There are a number of reasons why someone with PTSD might not be diagnosed.
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Tip : Reach Out To Others For Support
PTSD can make you feel disconnected from others. You may be tempted to withdraw from social activities and your loved ones. But its important to stay connected to life and the people who care about you. You dont have to talk about the trauma if you dont want to, but the caring support and companionship of others is vital to your recovery. Reach out to someone you can connect with for an uninterrupted period of time, someone who will listen when you want to talk without judging, criticizing, or continually getting distracted. That person may be your significant other, a family member, a friend, or a professional therapist. Or you could try:
Volunteering your time or reaching out to a friend in need. This is not only a great way to connect to others, but can also help you reclaim your sense of control.
Joining a PTSD support group. This can help you feel less isolated and alone and also provide invaluable information on how to cope with symptoms and work towards recovery.
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Allergies May Flare Up Or You May Develop New Ones
Just over 60% of your immune system is located in your digestive system. If your digestive tract is full of inflammation from increased cortisol levels, your immune function will be severely compromised. An Ohio State University study found an increase in allergy flare ups based on this. The founder of PTSD UK, Jacqui, developed a dairy allergy during the peak of her PTSD, It was obviously something that Id always had, but it wasnt enough of an issue to show itself. During my worst times of PTSD I couldnt have any dairy products without having an allergic reaction.
As the extra cortisol from PTSD surges through your bloodstream, it dulls your bodys defences and can also potentially turn things like previously acceptable soaps and creams into irritants triggering skin issues like eczema flare-ups or other sensitivities and allergies.
The Relationship between Traumatic Stress, PTSD and Cortisol By Eileen Delaney, PhD, Naval Center for Combat & Operational Stress Control,
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It Can Be Really Difficult To Gain Muscle
Cortisol restricts the uptake of amino acids into the muscle cells, making it almost impossible to gain muscle. Any muscle you do gain, or have already can be lost in a matter of days. This can result in overtraining, which ultimately creates more stress on your system, which creates more cortisol and adrenaline interfering with the release of growth hormones and then reduced muscle growth & recovery! Its a vicious cycle. Be kind to yourself and your body, and take any training and exercise at a sensible pace.
Psychotherapy For Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Psychotherapy involves talking with a mental health professional to treat a mental illness. Psychotherapy can occur one-on-one or in a group. Talk therapy treatment for post traumatic stress disorder usually lasts 6 to 12 weeks, but it can last longer. Research shows that support from family and friends can be an important part of recovery.
Many types of psychotherapy can help people with post traumatic stress disorder . Some types target the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder directly. Other therapies focus on social, family, or job-related problems. The doctor or therapist may combine different therapies depending on each persons needs.
Effective psychotherapies tend to emphasize a few key components, including education about symptoms, teaching skills to help identify the triggers of symptoms, and skills to manage the symptoms. One helpful form of therapy is called cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can include:
Your therapist can help you develop stress management skills to help you better handle stressful situations and cope with stress in your life.
You may try individual therapy, group therapy or both. Group therapy can offer a way to connect with others going through similar experiences.
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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Treatment
The main treatments for people with post traumatic stress disorder are medications, psychotherapy , or both. Everyone is different, and post traumatic stress disorder affects people differently so a treatment that works for one person may not work for another. It is important for anyone with post traumatic stress disorder to be treated by a mental health provider who is experienced with post traumatic stress disorder . Some people with post traumatic stress disorder need to try different treatments to find what works for their symptoms.
If someone with post traumatic stress disorder is going through an ongoing trauma, such as being in an abusive relationship, both of the problems need to be addressed. Other ongoing problems can include panic disorder, depression, substance abuse, and feeling suicidal.
When Does Ptsd Start
The symptoms of PTSD can start immediately after a traumatic event, or even weeks or months afterwards. Usually, symptoms start within 6 months of the event. Sometimes symptoms will start after 6 months, though this is less common. Unfortunately, many people will not ask for help when their symptoms first start.
PTSD cannot be diagnosed in the first month after a traumatic event. If you experience trauma symptoms straight away, and these are severe and prevent you from functioning, you might be experiencing an ‘acute stress disorder’.
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Emotional And Psychological Trauma
If youve experienced an extremely stressful eventor series of eventsthats left you feeling helpless and emotionally out of control, you may have been traumatized. Psychological trauma often has its roots in childhood, but any event that shatters your sense of safety can leave you feeling traumatized, whether its an accident, injury, the sudden death of a loved one, bullying, domestic abuse, or a deeply humiliating experience. Whether the trauma happened years ago or yesterday, you can get over the pain, feel safe again, and move on with your life.
Which Children Are At Risk For Ptsd
A childs risk for PTSD is often affected by:
How close the child was to the traumatic event
How bad the event was
How long the event lasted
If the event happened more than once
How well the child is able to recover quickly from difficult things
How well the child copes
How supportive a childs family and community are after the event
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Supporting Someone With Ptsd
Research has shown that support from family and friends is important in helping someone overcome the debilitating effects of PTSD. Couples or family therapy can help to fix damaged relationships. In some cases, family members may need to seek support of their own.
For detailed information on the most effective treatments for PTSD, see The Australian Guidelines for the Treatment of Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
Do Children React Differently Than Adults
Children and teens can have extreme reactions to trauma, but some of their symptoms may not be the same as adults. Symptoms sometimes seen in very young children , these symptoms can include:
- Wetting the bed after having learned to use the toilet
- Forgetting how to or being unable to talk
- Acting out the scary event during playtime
- Being unusually clingy with a parent or other adult
Older children and teens are more likely to show symptoms similar to those seen in adults. They may also develop disruptive, disrespectful, or destructive behaviors. Older children and teens may feel guilty for not preventing injury or deaths. They may also have thoughts of revenge.
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Ptsd Treatment And Therapy
Treatment for PTSD can relieve symptoms by helping you deal with the trauma youve experienced. A doctor or therapist will encourage you to recall and process the emotions you felt during the original event in order to reduce the powerful hold the memory has on your life.
During treatment, youll also explore your thoughts and feelings about the trauma, work through feelings of guilt and mistrust, learn how to cope with intrusive memories, and address the problems PTSD has caused in your life and relationships.
The types of treatment available for PTSD include:
Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy involves gradually exposing yourself to feelings and situations that remind you of the trauma, and replacing distorted and irrational thoughts about the experience with a more balanced picture.
Family therapy can help your loved ones understand what youre going through and help you work through relationship problems together as a family.
Medication is sometimes prescribed to people with PTSD to relieve secondary symptoms of depression or anxiety, although they do not treat the causes of PTSD.
EMDR incorporates elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy with eye movements or other forms of rhythmic, left-right stimulation, such as hand taps or sounds. These techniques work by unfreezing the brains information processing system, which is interrupted in times of extreme stress.
Frequently Asked Questions About Post
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.
It is natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. Fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to help defend against danger or to avoid it. This fight-or-flight response is a typical reaction meant to protect a person from harm. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people recover from initial symptoms naturally. Those who continue to experience problems may be diagnosed with PTSD. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they are not in danger.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder that some people get after seeing or living through a dangerous event. When in danger, its natural to feel afraid. This fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to prepare to defend against the danger or to avoid it. This fight-or-flight response is a healthy reaction meant to protect a person from harm. In PTSD, this reaction is changed or damaged. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when theyre no longer in danger.
- Feeling tense or on edge
- Having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts
According to John H. Krystal, M.D., of Yale University School of Medicine:
To be diagnosed with PTSD, a person must have all of the following for at least 1 month:
Risk factors for PTSD include:
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Beyond Treatment: How Can I Help Myself
It may be very hard to take that first step to help yourself. It is important to realize that although it may take some time, with treatment, you can get better. If you are unsure where to go for help, ask your family doctor. You can also check NIMH’s Help for Mental Illnesses page or search online for mental health providers, social services, hotlines, or physicians for phone numbers and addresses. An emergency room doctor can also provide temporary help and can tell you where and how to get further help.
To help yourself while in treatment:
- Talk with your doctor about treatment options
- Engage in mild physical activity or exercise to help reduce stress
- Set realistic goals for yourself
- Break up large tasks into small ones, set some priorities, and do what you can as you can
- Try to spend time with other people, and confide in a trusted friend or relative. Tell others about things that may trigger symptoms.
- Expect your symptoms to improve gradually, not immediately
- Identify and seek out comforting situations, places, and people
Caring for yourself and others is especially important when large numbers of people are exposed to traumatic events .
Causes Of Complex Ptsd
C-PTSD is believed to be caused by severe, repetitive abuse over a long period of time. The abuse often occurs at vulnerable times in a person’s lifesuch as early childhood or adolescenceand can create lifelong challenges.
Traumatic stress can have a number of effects on the brain. Research suggests that trauma is associated with lasting changes in key areas of the brain including the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex.
The types of long-term traumatic events that can cause C-PTSD include:
In these types of events, a victim is under the control of another person and does not have the ability to easily escape.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Ptsd
Symptoms of PTSD usually begin within 3 months of the traumatic incident, but they sometimes emerge later. To meet the criteria for PTSD, symptoms must last longer than 1 month, and they must be severe enough to interfere with aspects of daily life, such as relationships or work. The symptoms also must be unrelated to medication, substance use, or other illness.
The course of the illness varies: Although some people recover within 6 months, others have symptoms that last for a year or longer. People with PTSD often have co-occurring conditions, such as depression, substance use, or one or more anxiety disorders.
After a dangerous event, it is natural to have some symptoms or even to feel detached from the experience, as though you are observing things rather than experiencing them. A health care providersuch as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical social workerwho has experience helping people with mental illnesses can determine whether symptoms meet the criteria for PTSD.
To be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must have all of the following for at least 1 month:
- At least one re-experiencing symptom
- At least one avoidance symptom
- At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
- At least two cognition and mood symptoms