In the past little was known about PTSD in children. Today, we know that trauma and abuse can cause chidlren to suffer with PTSD. In the United States, Child Protective Services receives reports on the abuse or neglect of about 5.5 million children in a year. Some of those children will inevitably suffer from the affects of that trauma.
Following trauma, most children will have some symptoms. They may be fearful of strangers or become needy toward their parents. They might also have sleep problems/nightmares or become more irritable, aggressive, or reckless. Young children may lose skills they once had, such as potty training. They might go back to earlier habits, like sucking their thumb. Although most children have symptoms following trauma, only a few will go on to get PTSD.
Early trauma affects the nervous system which is shaped by experiences. Stress and trauma, especially over a period of time, can lead to changes in parts of the brain. This can have long-term effects on physical, mental, and emotional growth. What's more, the impact of early abuse often extends into later childhood, teen, and even adult years.
It is important to help children deal with trauma as they probably will have little to no coping mechanisms to help them. Pediatricians and other child health care providers can give support, education, safety planning, and information about treatment. Also child and family social services can help caregivers with many issues. There is help out there for children who may have PTSD issues.
Columbia River Mental Health Services offers mental health and substance use treatment to adults and children.