What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

How could PTSD affect your child?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a form of psychological damage that can result from experiencing, witnessing, or participating in an overwhelmingly traumatic event. PTSD, which can occur in both children and adults, results in a "reliving" of the tragic events. Children often relive the trauma through repetitive play, upsetting dreams, or scary imaginary characters. Though its symptoms can occur soon after the event, the disorder often surfaces several months or even years later.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, here are some behaviors that may indicate your child is suffering from PTSD:

    • Refusal to return to school
    • Fearful or clingy behavior
    • Regression, such as going back to thumb sucking or using a bottle
    • Preoccupation with the events of the disaster
    • Sleep problems, such as nightmares, screaming, or bed-wetting
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Irritability
    • Jumpiness
    • Misbehavior
    • Physical complaints, such as stomachaches, headaches, or dizziness, with no physical explanation
    • Withdrawal from family and friends
    • Persistent sadness or listlessness
    • Decreased activity

      If your child is exhibiting two or more of these behaviors, speak to your pediatrician about finding a counselor. Professional advice or treatment for children affected by a disaster can help prevent or minimize PTSD.

      Sources: American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; Marion Bilich, PhD

      The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It's not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.