Nowadays, children are out to a large number of different forms of violence and traumatic events, including criminal activities, such as rape and physical abuse; technological mishaps, such as car and airplane accidents; and natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes.
Research has shown that the likelihood of development of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in children increases considerably in case of personal or emotional traumas. For instance, repeated sexual abuse by an authority figure or a parent, rape, or any other traumatic childhood experience on an emotional level trigger elements of hostility and anger within a child and may disturb the normal process of its development. Such incidences lead to PTSD in small children and affect them all their lives.
As per the research conducted by the National Center for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (NC-PTSD), following is a brief description of the various symptoms and signs of the disorder in small children:
- Children of 1 year to 6 years of age: Passivity and helplessness, absence of normal responsiveness, general feeling of fear, heightened confusion and anxiety, difficulty in recognizing feelings and describing the traumatic event they went through, disturbances in sleeping patterns, nightmares, fear of death and separation from the loved ones, loss of motor and speech skills, regressive and somatic signs, unexplained immobility, fussiness, and cognitive confusions.
- Children of 6 years to 11 years of age: Feelings of guilt and accountability, discomfort on seeing or hearing things that remind them of the traumatic event, general disturbances in sleep, fear of death and separation, anxiety about their safety and security, violent behavior, tendency to avoid attending school, mood and behavioral disorders, somatic and regression symptoms, withdrawal, lack of interest in recreational activities, cognitive confusions, and distractible behavior.
The lesser the age of a child at time of the traumatic event, the more is the risk of developing the disorder. According to an estimate, nearly 5 million children up to 11 years of age experience trauma each year, resulting in as many as 1.8 million fresh cases of PTSD annually. Nearly 36percent of these children are known to have developed PTSD after the event. Group therapies and support from family and friends is essential for the timely treatment of this disorder.
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