Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may result when a child or adolescent has personally experienced or witnessed a life threatening situation. While all children can be expected to be upset after a very disturbing experience—such as witnessing or being a victim of violence, physical or sexual abuse, a natural disaster, an accident, or extreme neglect—children who suffer from PTSD find that they are unable to return to normal functioning after an initial adjustment period of 2 months. They experience intrusive thoughts, memories or nightmares, an exaggerated startle response, irritability, insomnia, and anxiety attacks when reminded of the trauma. Some children may engage in play reenactment of the trauma. Others may avoid any reminders of the trauma, such as refusing to go in a car after an auto accident or being unable to be around dogs after being bitten by a dog. Children may also find that they feel numb and unable to experience affection or happiness. It is important to note that while children my experience symptoms of PTSD, the disorder itself is relatively uncommon in children.
Evidence-based PTSD therapy sessions aim to first create a safe and supportive environment for a child where they are able to speak, draw, play, or write about their trauma. This is followed by prolonged exposure in which the child learns to face their memories and real life reminders of the trauma until they no longer feel anxious. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps to restore a healthy rewarding life by improving sleep, overcoming nightmares, and rebuilding trust in self and others. The Child Anxiety Center staff will help you and your child re-establish a secure and comfortable life.