Contrary to popular belief, children can also develop PTSD. While over 5 million adults in the US develop post-traumatic stress disorder every year, children as young as 2 or 3 can also experience this chronic condition. Dr. Michael Scheeringa, Professor of Child Psychiatry and Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the Tulane University School of Medicine, explains more about PTSD in children.
Many believe that children are too young to remember traumatic experiences leading to PTSD, but by the age of 16, two thirds of all youths in America have been exposed to a life-threatening event. Dr. Scheeringa explains that experiences like being in a motor vehicle accident, witnessing domestic violence, being sexually abused, being attacked by a dog, or experiencing a school shooting or a natural disaster are just some of the ways a child can develop PTSD.
While PTSD is a prevalent condition in children, it is often misdiagnosed or not identified at all for three reasons: avoidance issues, internalized PTSD symptoms, and the general complexity of the condition with as many as 20 different symptoms. Although PTSD is a chronic condition and is seldom fully recovered from, treatment options are available. Dr. Scheeringa recommends evidence-based treatments like cognitive behavior therapy that teaches children new coping techniques and helps them work through the memories of their traumatic experience. While PTSD is a difficult condition to live with, Dr. Scheeringa says that there is also the possibility of post-traumatic growth, where something good can come from overcoming traumatic events.
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- Dr. Michael Scheeringa, Professor of Child Psychiatry and Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the Tulane University School of Medicine