Child Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD symptoms can occur following direct or indirect exposure to a traumatic or terrifying event in which physical or emotional harm was witnessed or directly experienced. This can include experiences such as an unexpected or violent death of a family member, attacks such as 9-11, a serious accident, abuse, or domestic violence. These symptoms may be short term and directly related to the event. This type of PTSD is considered acute. Chronic or persistent PTSD may develop more gradually over time, especially if the trauma is more sustained, as in cases of abuse or domestic violence.

PTSD may be diagnosed at any age. The severity of the PTSD is dependent on several factors, including the nature of the trauma, the social support, family history, and the presence of other mental health issues.


Symptoms can develop within three months of the event, or can take months or even years to develop. The symptoms may be persistent or they may be more intermittent around anniversaries or triggers of the event. Symptoms can include flashbacks of the event, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, exaggerated startle response, anger or irritability, avoiding activities or places that may be a trigger or related to the even,t or discussing or remembering the event.

Many of the symptoms may be similar to stress, anxiety, and depression. To meet the PTSD diagnosis the symptoms need to last longer than one month.


Therapeutic interventions can be extremely successful to treat PTSD. Individual and group therapy can be used to help the individual process the event as well as share with others who have had similar experiences. With children, non-traditional therapies such as play, dance/movement, music, animal-assisted and art enables the child to process the trauma in a safe and non-threatening manner.

Medications can be effective to treat certain symptoms, specifically those related to anxiety or depression.

Once identified, it is best to address PTSD as soon as possible. Often people will not connect the symptoms to their trauma or will avoid seeking help to avoid discussing/remembering the trauma; however, treatment can be extremely effective in mitigating symptoms.


This information was gathered from Kids Health.org.