Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (also called PTSD) can happen after a child or adolescent is involved in or watches a very, very frightening event like a car accident, physical or sexual abuse or other violent events. The young person may be actually hurt in the event or feel threatened with extreme harm. PTSD is a serious condition that can interfere with a young person’s ability to do everyday activities at home and at school. Common symptoms of PTSD are based on the age of the young person.
Children 5 years and younger:
- Fear of being away from parents
- Crying, shaking
- Fear of darkness
- Trouble sleeping and nightmares
Children 6-11 years old:
- Not wanting to be around other children
- Irritability and fighting
- Distractibility and trouble concentrating
- Nightmares and difficulty sleeping
- Refusing to go to school
- Stomachaches or headaches
- Flashbacks-memories of the frightening event that seem real
- Bed wetting
Adolescents 12-17 years old:
- Nightmares and trouble sleeping
- Flashbacks or frightening memories that feel as if the trauma is happening again
- Refusing to go places or do things that remind the adolescent of the trauma
- Not getting along with friends
- Difficulty concentrating
- Having trouble with school work
- Feeling sad and not wanting to be with friends
Symptoms usually begin within three months after a trauma, but can surface even months or years later.
Phobias are intense, overwhelming fears connected to specific objects or situations. Most children have fears, but they do not get in the way of their everyday life. Children and adolescents with Phobias may avoid some normal activities and miss important life experiences. There are two main kinds of Phobias in childhood and adolescence:
- Specific or Simple Phobias involve fear of a particular thing such as an animal, heights or injections. Children with Specific Phobias often outgrow them. Adolescents with Specific Phobias may have panic attacks.
- Social Phobia results in a child or adolescent being excessively fearful of criticism or embarrassment in front of other people, especially people he or she does not know well. A common social phobia is fear of public speaking.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is diagnosed when a child or adolescent regularly has excessive worry and tension about a number of different things for at least six months. In addition to anxiety, young people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder may have physical symptoms such as headaches, tiredness and muscle tension. Generalized Anxiety Disorder usually runs in families and can become worse when a young person is stressed.