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Several traumatic events can cause PTSD in children, such as violent crime, war, and abuse. Factors that are proven to increase the risk include the severity of the traumatic event, the parental reaction to the event, and the physical proximity to the event. Several types of therapy are used to treat PTSD, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and psychological first aid.

Children With PTSD: An Overview

The diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was formally recognized as a psychiatric diagnosis in 1980. At that time, little was known about what the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder looked like in children and adolescents.
Today, however, we know children and adolescents are susceptible to developing PTSD, and we know that the condition has different age-specific features. In addition, we are beginning to develop child-focused treatments.

Causes of PTSD in Children

A diagnosis of PTSD means that an individual experienced an event that involved a threat to one's own or another's life or physical integrity and that this person responded with intense fear, helplessness, or horror.
Several traumatic events have been shown to cause PTSD. Children and adolescents may be diagnosed with the condition if they have survived:
  • Natural and human-created disasters, such as earthquakes or floods
  • Violent crimes, such as kidnapping, rape or murder of a parent, sniper fire, or school shootings
  • Motor vehicle accidents, such as automobile and plane crashes
  • Severe burns
  • Exposure to community violence
  • War
  • Peer suicide
  • Sexual and physical abuse.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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