When children experience a traumatic event, they may react in both a psychological and physical way. Their heart rate may increase, and they may begin to sweat, to feel agitated, to feel “butterflies” in their stomach, and to become emotionally upset. These reactions are distressing, but in fact they’re normal, they’re our bodies’ way of protecting us and preparing us to confront danger. However, some children who have experienced a traumatic event will have longer lasting reactions that can interfere with their physical and emotional health.
Traumatic stress reactions includes some of the following: intense and ongoing emotional reactions, depressive symptoms, anxiety, behavioral changes, difficulties with attention, problems at school, nightmares, difficulty sleeping and eating, and aches and pains, among others. Many children who have experienced a traumatic event often avoid any situation, person or place that reminds them of the event or in some cases, many “block” out or try to forget the event but still react to reminders of the event. In some cases, children may develop chronic reactions to the event causing them to have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).