What is it?
What to look for
Many practitioners recommend a combination of behavioral therapy and medication. As some PTSD symptoms are often found in young people who don’t develop the full disorder, a careful evaluation is necessary before a clinician decides how to intervene.
Behavioral: PTSD therapy sessions aim to create a safe and supportive environment for your child. Psychotherapy that helps children speak, draw, play, or write about their trauma has been successful. In other cases, your child’s clinician might recommend behavior modification techniques and cognitive therapy to teach your child to cope with his or her fear instead of addressing the trauma directly. Therapy sessions for children almost always involve a parent, a family member, or another caregiver.
Pharmacological: Medication may be prescribed to help alleviate fear and anxiety, starting with antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs. If you child has persistent bad dreams, a drug used to treat hypertension called Prazosin has proven effective in curbing them.
Frequently asked questions
If left untreated PTSD frequently leads to a variety of dangerous behaviors. Depression, risk-taking, and a variety of anxiety and behavior disorders can all follow. Young people with PTSD may also begin using substances in an attempt to self-medicate. Severe cases are at risk for suicide.
Do medications help?
Yes, medications have been used to successfully treat feelings of fear and anxiety in children with post-traumatic stress disorder along with psychotherapeutic interventions. Your child may be prescribed antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication in combination with behavioral therapy.
What causes it?
Exposure to a traumatic event or series of events that a young person believes has put her or her loved ones in danger of serious injury or death can cause post-traumatic stress disorder. Some children may be more susceptible to PTSD, lacking resilience that allows others to bounce back from a disturbing experience.
My child experienced a traumatic event. Will he develop PTSD?
Most children will not develop PTSD. Children who have a history of mental illness are more susceptible, as are those who have experience trauma for an extended period, those who have a close relative with PTSD, or those with little social support after a traumatizing event.
Can I prevent post-traumatic stress disorder?
Researchers don’t know exactly what causes PTSD, but some children are more susceptible. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to reduce the risk of developing PTSD. If your child has experienced a traumatic event, make sure family and friends help him feel safe and protected. If you’re worried about her reaction, consider having her evaluated by a professional.