Symptoms of PTSD in children (also referred to more broadly as “childhood traumatic stress”) typically fall into four major categories:

  1. Traumatic Repetitions
    • Traumatic play
    • Play reenactment
    • Nightmares
    • Flashbacks and dissociation
    • Distressed when reminded
    • Somatic (bodily) complaints when reminded
  2. Avoidance & Fear
    • Avoids thinking or talking about event
    • Avoids reminders of event (people, places, and things)
    • Impaired recollection or memory
    • New fears (e.g., separation, being alone, darkness)
    • Sense of a foreshortened future or impending doom
  3. Increased arousal
    • Nightmares or night terrors
    • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
    • Decreased attention or concentration
    • Hyperactivity
    • Irritability and changes in mood
    • Increased aggression
    • Hypervigilance and exaggerated startle response
  4. Decreased responsiveness numbing & regression
    • Diminished interest in play and normal activities
    • Social withdrawal, peer difficulties or feelings of detachment and isolation
    • Restricted range of emotion
    • Developmental regression

These symptoms can be very concerning and interfere with normal day-to-day functioning. If a child experiences any of these symptoms for many weeks and months after the traumatic event, the parent/caregiver should seek help from a professional.