Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Many studies reveal that PTSD is a widespread problem in our society.  For example:

  • 15 to 43% of both girls and boys have experienced at least one traumatic event in their young lifetimes. Of those children and adolescents who experienced a trauma, 3 to 15% of girls and 1 to 6% of boys could be diagnosed with PTSD.(1)
  • Approximately 7.7 million American adults age 18 and older (about 3.5 % of people in this age group) in a given year have PTSD.(2)
  • One in eight Iraq/Afghan war veterans returns with symptoms of PTSD, but less than half seek help.(3)
  • Sexually abused children who are anxious, avoid coping with their trauma, and dissociate are at high risk of developing PTSD later in life. Their avoidance is frequently family-reinforced.(4)

thicketSymptoms of PTSD

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed.  The DSM 5 classifies PTSD as a special type of anxiety disorder, caused by event(s) in an individual’s life.  Symptoms of PTSD can include any or all of the following:

  • intrusive images, thoughts, perceptions, and recollections of the event
  • recurrent frightening dreams (children may have frightening night terrors without any content)
  • flashback experiences of re-enacting or re-experiencing the traumatic event  (children may show disturbing, repetitive “play” which re-enacts a traumatic experience, or which expresses aspects of the trauma)
  • intense psychological and physiological distress when exposed to internal or external “triggers” or cues  (children may act in a disorganized or agitated way, without any apparent reason)
  • persistent avoidance or numbing of general responsiveness (avoiding thoughts, feelings, conversations, activities, places, people)
  • inability to recall an important aspect of a traumatic event
  • markedly diminished interest in participating in significant activities
  • feeling detached or estranged from others
  • being unable to feel anything intensely, feeling apathetic
  • feeling a sense of having a foreshortened future (e.g. premature death)
  • difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • irritability and outbursts of anger
  • difficulty concentrating
  • hypervigilance (being wary and jumpy)
  • exaggerated startle response

Act to Take Care of Yourself: Ask for Help.

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  1. Hamblen (1998). “PTSD in children and adolescents.” National Center for PTSD Fact Sheet. http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/ncmain/ncdocs/fact_shts/fs_children.html
  2. Kessler et al (2005).  ”Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of twelve-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R).”  Archives of General Psychiatry, 62(6) 617-27.
  3. Hoge et al (2004). “Combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, mental health problems and barriers to care.” The New England Journal of Medicine, 8(1), 13-22.
  4. Kaplow et al (2005).  ”Pathways to PTSD, part II: sexually abused children.”   American Journal of Psychiatry, 162,1305-1310.