Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can happen after your child sees or is involved in a very stressful event that involves actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual assault. Your child may have PTSD after learning of a stressful event that happened to a close family member or friend. The stressful event may be:
Most children and teens can get over PTSD with good treatment and family support. However, children have a greater risk for having PTSD later in life if they see or are involved in another stressful event.
It is not known why one person will have PTSD after a trauma like a robbery, rape, battle, or severe car accident while another person may not. Things that increase the risk for PTSD after such an event include:
The brain makes chemicals that affect thoughts, emotions, and actions. Without the right balance of these chemicals, there may be problems with the way you think, feel, or act. People with this disorder may have too little or too much of some of these chemicals. People with this disorder may have physical changes in their brain.
PTSD can start at any age.
Symptoms may start right after the stressful event or may start 3 or more months later. When stressful events, such as abuse, keep happening, the symptoms may come on slowly and get worse over time.
There are 4 types of PTSD symptoms.
Anniversaries of the event can often cause a flood of emotions and bad memories
Some of these symptoms are normal after a stressful event. For most children, these symptoms stop within a month after the stressful event. If your child keeps having these symptoms, it’s called PTSD.
Having PTSD may also increase your child’s risk of having problems with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and drug and alcohol use.
Your child’s healthcare provider or therapist will ask about your child’s symptoms, medical and family history, and any medicines your child is taking. Your provider will make sure your child does not have a medical illness or drug or alcohol problem that could cause the symptoms. Your child may be referred to a specialist who has experience working with children and teens who have PTSD.
PTSD can be successfully treated with therapy, medicine, or both.
Therapy is usually the first treatment for children. Several types of therapy may help your child:
Several types of medicines can help. Your healthcare provider will work with you to select the best one for your child. Your child may need to take more than one type of medicine.