In some cases child traumatic stress symptoms may or may not meet the criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Children can show their PTSD symptoms differently than adults. These PTSD symptoms in children will vary by the child’s age and developmental level. Not all children who show signs of traumatic stress will be diagnosed with PTSD. However, as many as 20-25% who have been exposed to a traumatic event may develop symptoms that require evaluation and treatment.
If a child’s post-traumatic stress symptoms seem chronic and get worse over time, rather than better, you should get help. Untreated traumatic stress can affect the development of a child and his/her ability to function at home and at school. There are severe consequences to untreated traumatic stress in children including potential changes to biological, neurological and social development. Child traumatic stress can be associated with an increase in risky behaviors as the child gets older such as HIV high-risk behavior, promiscuity and drug and alcohol abuse. Recent studies have linked early experiences of trauma with greater prevalence of health problems in adulthood (i.e., heart disease, diabetes and cancer, stroke, suicide). It can be argued that traumatic stress is the single greatest preventable cause of mental illness.
The good news is that traumatic stress in children is treatable and there are highly effective treatments available to help children. In Connecticut and across the country there are a range of available best practices that have been shown to significantly reduce the symptoms of traumatic stress and restore a child to health functioning. Please see the section on effective treatments by clicking here.