Understanding the Differences and Similarities in PTSD and Children and PTSD and Adults
The natural instinct of every healthy adult is to protect children. Grown-ups yearn to shield kids not only from harm itself, but even from being exposed to witnessing the danger, pain and hardship of others. Yet our world is filled with potentially traumatizing events. So full, that adults may have become desensitized to what can still alarm children. PTSD and children is a reality which can result from living in such a world.
Traumatic events like physical abuse, neglect or abandonment, or living in a high crime (especially violent crime) area can be self-evident triggers for an anxiety condition such as PTSD. There are, however, less obvious events which may also lead to PTSD in kids. A car accident, a medical procedure, a tornado or house fire can also create fears that refuse to subside. Parental strife, the death of a loved one or a move to a new school can seem far more troubling to children’s eyes than they do to adult ones.
Anytime there is a frightening situation where the child feels powerless and senses that adults are unable (or unwilling) to act as protectors, can become a source of lingering worry. It is the same combination of danger and powerlessness that triggers PTSD in grown-ups. What may differ are the events which make a child versus an adult feel threatened and powerless.
Keep in mind that not all frightening experiences produce PTSD. The same event may be mildly disturbing to one child and yet profoundly disturbing to the next. In this sense, PTSD and children is similar to PTSD and adults. The level of anxiety is unpredictable. Being upset for a time following upsetting circumstances is not PTSD. Most people will feel distressed after living through a fearful event. But if your child still seems shaken and troubled several months after an event, it could be PTSD.
At Family Guidance Center we have experience with PTSD and children. We know what it looks like and we know how to help. If it’s been nine to 12 weeks and your child still seems unduly upset, call us and set up an appointment to meet with one of our mental health professionals.