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)
Symptoms of PTSD
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. (DSM-IV-TR) 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Kaplow et al (2005). ”Pathways to PTSD, part II: sexually abused children.” American Journal of Psychiatry, 162,1305-1310.