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PTSD symptoms likely to develop in children who reflect over trauma
Sep 17 2019

PTSD symptoms likely to develop in children who reflect over trauma

Mental Health

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children results from an exposure to trauma, abuse, natural calamity, death of a loved one, emotional abuse, neglect, and so on. Despite the fact that most of the children recover after the traumatic event, some are not able to and develop PTSD that may remain with them for months, years, or may even continue into adult life.

A recently published study highlighted that children start developing symptoms of PTSD when they encounter trouble dealing with their trauma and identify their symptoms as being something seriously erroneous. Lead author Richard Meiser-Stedman, a professor from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, shared that in children and teenagers, a common reaction to a trauma is the development of PTSD symptoms which can take the form of flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive memories. A majority of healthcare professionals avoid screening it in the first month followed by a trauma because it is a natural response, rather than being called a disorder.

Small percentage of teens develop PTSD symptoms

Majority of children and teens move on the path of natural recovery without the assistance of any professional help, even after experiencing a severe distressing stress. However, a minority of them can go on to develop PTSD symptoms which can stay with them for a very long period of time. The study authors wanted to explore why some children develop traumatic stress symptoms while others do not. They also wanted to investigate why some children recover without the support of any treatment while some develop long-lasting problems.

The research team evaluated more than 200 children aged between 8 to 17 years who attended a hospital emergency unit after having faced a traumatic incident. These incidents comprised assaults, car crashes, dog attacks, and multiple other medical exigencies. The participants were questioned and assessed for PTSD between week two and four followed by the trauma and again two months thereafter.

PTSD symptoms were common after two or four weeks

The researchers segmented the children’s response into three categories:

  • A resilient group which did not develop clinically significant PTSD symptoms at any point of time
  • A recovery group that displayed a few symptoms initially, but which resolved and did not show up at the two months follow up
  • A persistent group which displayed significant symptoms at both the assessments

The team also investigated if sharing feelings about the trauma with family or friends and having a social support system was a protecting factor against the persistent problems after two months. Other factors, like life stressors and if the child was undergoing some pain, were also considered. Stedman shared that PTSD symptoms were commonly prevalent at the two- and four- week assessments and these symptoms were the manifestation of confusion and fear at the time of trauma. However, no intervention was required for majority of the children and youngsters who healed naturally. It was also noted that PTSD was independent of factors like physical injuries, life stressors, social support, and self-blame.

Negative thought process about trauma disrupts recovery

A minority of young people who couldn’t recover completely developed chronic teen PTSD because they thought negatively about their trauma and were constantly thinking about what happened to them. They believed that something was irreparably wrong with them and that they lacked coping mechanisms.

Ironically, in multiple cases, attempts to alleviate the traumatic symptoms by talking about it with family and friends only worsened the symptoms. Those who did not recover well were spending a lot of time trying to make sense of the trauma and they felt stuck, whereas those who recovered fast did not think much about the trauma or their reactions.

Road to recovery

Children and adolescents are impressionable. While many of them may move on and recover from a trauma, many may also find themselves trapped in its thoughts leading to the development of PTSD. Unfortunately, PTSD is a debilitating mental disorder that can severely affect a person’s quality of life. On the other hand, PTSD is treatable. Therefore, it is important that teens suffering from PTSD receive timely medical intervention for the resolution of their symptoms.

If you know a teen displaying the symptoms of PTSD or any other mental disorder, direct them towards Adeona Healthcare, the leading renowned mental health care provider for adolescents aged between 12 to 17. We offer evidence-based programs for teen PTSD treatment that can be customized to suit our young patients. To know more about our teen PTSD or teen PTSD treatment, call our 24/7 helpline 888-997-3966 and speak to a representative. You can also chat online with a trained member from our team for further assistance.