Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that occurs in both children and adults after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event like an accident, physical/sexual/emotional abuse, natural disaster, or war. It’s estimated that 70% of all adults in the United States have experienced some sort of traumatic event at least once in their lives, with 40% of children having gone through a traumatic event as a child or adolescent.
With time and self-care, most people usually get better a temporary period of adjusting and coping. However, if the symptoms last for months or even years and worsen to the point where it interferes with your daily functioning you may have PTSD and should seek effective treatment.
It’s not uncommon for PTSD symptoms to begin appearing within a month of the trauma. But, for some, they may not experience symptoms until later, sometimes even years after the event.
While the symptoms can vary from person to person, common PTSD symptoms include:
Intrusive memories including nightmares, flashbacks, or reliving the event.
Avoidance like avoiding thinking or discussing the trauma, as well as anything that reminds you of the event.
Negative changes in thinking and mood such as hopelessness, memory problems, and detaching yourself from family, friends, and activities you once enjoyed.
Changes in physical and emotional reactions like being easily frightened, irritability, feeling guilty, angry outbursts, and insomnia.
Substance abuse, mainly relying on drugs or alcohol to cope.
For children under the age of 6, they may have upsetting dreams or reenact the event through play.
When to seek help.
If any of the symptoms intensify for a prolonged period of time, suicidal thoughts, or difficulty maintaining a healthy and productive life reach out to a trusted friend, family member, doctor, or mental health professional.
If it’s an emergency, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or 911.
National Center for PTSD
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Self-Help and Coping
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network