Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of life-threatening events. First noticed in war veterans, post traumatic stress disorder can result from many traumatic incidents, including serious accidents, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, or violent personal assaults like child abuse. Symptoms may be mild or severe, but seem to be worse if the event was initiated by a person, such as a rape as opposed to a flood.

Post traumatic stress disorder rarely appears during the trauma itself and often surfaces several months or even years later. Children may re-experience the traumatic event through memories, play, nightmares, or feeling like the experience is happening again. Children who experience repeated trauma may develop an emotional numbness, called dissociating.

Parents should be alert to these changes:

clinging behaviors or refusal to go to school
persistent fears and sleep disturbances
loss of concentration
behavior problems or angry outbursts
physical complaints with no physical cause
withdrawal from family and friends
worry about dying at an early age
preoccupation with the events of the disaster

A child's risk of developing post traumatic stress disorder is related to the seriousness, proximity, and repetition of the trauma. Symptoms may last from several months to many years. Mental health professionals can be helpful in diagnosing and treating this condition. Behavior modification techniques, cognitive therapy, and medication have all proven successful.

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