What can cause PTSD in a child?

PTSD in children can be caused by a traumatic event such as a car accident, physical or sexual abuse, natural disaster, sudden death of a family member, or war-related events. In some cases, just witnessing another person’s trauma can trigger PTSD symptoms. Ongoing stressful situations such as poverty, substance misuse and abuse within the home environment may lead to PTSD in a child. Other risk factors for developing PTSD include age at the time of the event (younger age increases risk), limited social supports from family and peers after an event, and pre-existing psychological problems such as depression.

Traumatic experiences

Children can develop post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in reaction to a traumatic event or experience. Such events can vary from witnessing a parent’s death or abuse, being the victim of physical violence or sexual assault, living through a natural disaster, or surviving an accident. These situations overwhelm a child’s ability to cope and the emotions experienced are often deeply disturbing for young people due to their immaturity and inexperience. As a result of this trauma, children may feel scared and isolated leading them to develop PTSD symptoms.

These symptoms may include nightmares, flashbacks of the event, avoidance behaviors such as refusing to talk about what happened or engaging in activities related to the incident, decreased self-esteem and poor academic performance. It is also common for children with PTSD to be hypervigilant and display impulsive behavior while becoming withdrawn from friends and family members who could provide support during difficult times. A diagnosis should always come from a doctor; however there are certain characteristics that parents can observe in order for them identify if their child has developed the disorder following trauma exposure.

Receiving prompt treatment is essential in helping children recover from these experiences so they do not suffer long-term consequences such as difficulty forming relationships throughout life and prolonged difficulty functioning at school or work later on in adulthood. Trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy is an example of evidence based treatments designed specifically for those suffering from PTSD which address both thinking patterns as well as beliefs related to risk taking activities all within an integrative approach combining individualized interventions with family sessions designed by experts specializing in childhood mental health issues.

Neglect and abandonment

Neglect and abandonment can have a devastating impact on a child’s developing psyche. Without the consistent love, guidance, and support of responsible adults, kids can be left feeling confused, scared, and deprived of basic needs. This sort of environment has been known to cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), especially if it is prolonged or combined with other factors such as physical or sexual abuse.

Children that experience this type of life may find difficulty forming attachments due to their lack of trust in adults who are supposed to provide for them. The absence of these necessary parental relationships leads children to feel isolated from others and often fearful when approached by strangers or people they do not know well.

In some cases, PTSD from neglect and abandonment is so extreme that children will become attached only to objects rather than humans – a sign that their emotional systems have shut down out of self-protection. If a child does not receive care in time this could lead to lasting psychological issues further on in life such as chronic depression, anxiety or paranoia among many other potential consequences.

Physical and emotional abuse

Physical and emotional abuse can both have severe impacts on a child, which can eventually lead to the development of PTSD. Emotional abuse is generally any kind of behaviour that harms a child’s self-esteem or emotional wellbeing. These behaviours include insulting or belittling comments, the refusal to engage in meaningful conversations, lack of affection and deliberately ignoring or isolating a child. Alternatively, physical abuse involves deliberate and intentional infliction of physical pain upon a child. This could come in many forms such as hitting, kicking, shaking or strangling them.

Both types of abuse are damaging to children’s mental health and create lasting trauma that can result in PTSD later down the line if proper coping mechanisms aren’t taught early enough. Unresolved past traumatic experiences prevent children from learning how to cope with stress effectively when faced with new situations that could trigger flashbacks from their previous traumas, which leads to increased feelings of helplessness and insecurity over time. In extreme cases it is possible for prolonged exposure to either type of trauma due to ongoing abuse or violence can result in dissociation so intense that one may be unable to remember certain events altogether – especially those connected with long-term maltreatment.

It’s important for family members and close friends who suspect they know someone who has experienced childhood trauma involving physical or emotional abuse take all necessary steps towards helping them find appropriate therapeutic support early on before any further psychological harm is done so as to ensure better outcomes for individuals affected by these types of traumas in future years ahead.

Witnessing violence or a traumatic event

Witnessing violence or a traumatic event is an experience that can cause PTSD in a child. Even if the child isn’t directly involved with the violent act, seeing another person hurt or killed can be highly damaging to their mental and emotional health. Experiencing this form of trauma can lead to symptoms such as changes in behaviour and emotion, including intense fear and guilt. A child may also develop intrusive thoughts which become hard to control, leading to a sense of anxiety or depression.

The long-term impact on children who witness violence or traumatic events cannot be understated; they are more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological issues even into adulthood. They may have difficulty forming attachments with others, struggling to trust people outside of their immediate family circle due to past trauma experienced at a young age. They may have persistent nightmares about the event that remain vivid for years afterwards.

It is essential for those who work with children – from parents to teachers – understand how witnessing violence and traumatic events can impact them both immediately after the experience as well as further down the line in order for them get support needed if required. It is important that someone close by checks in regularly with any child thought it might have witnessed something alarming in order ensure their safety going forward is secured – whether physical or emotional – and so any problems can be dealt with accordingly before they become too severe later on down the line.

Medical procedures and illnesses

Medical procedures and illnesses can be a significant contributor to the development of PTSD in children. Difficult medical treatments, whether undergone at home or in a hospital setting, have been known to affect those vulnerable young minds. Life-threatening ailments can often lead to post-traumatic symptoms. In some cases, the fear or sense of helplessness during treatment is enough to trigger a traumatic episode – even if the illness has already been cured. Children may also be further affected by noticing how their diagnosis affects family members as well as themselves. The knowledge that they are causing emotional distress can often lead to guilt and shame which only adds an extra layer of difficulty when dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Illnesses such as cancer and HIV/AIDS continue to be on the list of leading causes for childhood PTSD since their difficult treatments and associated stigma create far more than just physical suffering for afflicted youngsters. Having multiple relatives suffer from chronic illnesses or conditions like diabetes can cause feelings of anxiety in children who feel responsible for keeping them safe and healthy; even after recovery, these emotions may linger beyond what’s typically expected from occasional bouts with sicknesses throughout childhood.

It’s important then to recognize early signs of trauma within a child’s life so that parents have time to consult professionals who understand how complex medical situations – both experience firsthand or through others -can impact psychological health at any age. By taking note when young ones suddenly withdraw socially or express aggression out of character it might be possible to reduce PTSD symptoms before they become overwhelming and overwhelming long-term concerns later on in life.

Community violence and disasters

Violence or disasters in a child’s community can easily cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as both can be devastating for children of all ages. The impact of trauma on a child is closely tied to their level of exposure and the available support around them.

For those exposed to violence, it is important to remember that the effects will vary from person to person. Even if children are not physically present during an act of violence, if they witness it through media reports or if they live in fear due to its possible presence, this can still create deep emotional scars. It is well known that constant anxiety and fear over safety leads to increased feelings of helplessness, which are hallmarks of PTSD. Similarly, witnessing violent acts such as murders or sexual assaults can have even more profound impacts on youngsters who then may struggle with depression and self-destructive behavior later on in life.

Natural disasters like earthquakes and floods may also lead to PTSD especially when there has been major destruction and loss involved – something that almost always occurs after such events. Children who experience these conditions often display symptoms like nightmares, flashbacks, avoidance behaviors and changes in personality long after the traumatic event has passed; stressing how severe the impacts truly are for any youngster subjected to these scenarios.

Family dysfunction and conflict

Family dysfunction and conflict is a common cause of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in children. Interpersonal experiences can be highly distressing for kids and can contribute to the development of PTSD, as well as other mental health issues. Family members fighting and arguing is one example of a traumatic experience that can trigger PTSD in children. Continuous verbal abuse, criticism or alienation between parents or siblings may lead to poor self-esteem and anxiety which are associated with PTSD.

Living with family dysfunction long-term also plays a role in worsening existing emotional problems. These could include developing negative thought patterns like having low self-worth, believing they are not capable or worth being loved and feeling helpless or powerless because they feel they cannot control their environment. The child could resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as becoming withdrawn, aggressive or dependent on adults in order to cope with their distress. All these issues created by familial conflicts over time can negatively impact the mental wellbeing of a child, making them more vulnerable to developing PTSD when faced with further stressful situations.

Children who grow up amidst high levels of tension from domestic violence may have an increased risk for developing chronic symptoms of trauma due to more extreme forms of neglect and/or maltreatment; this might range from physical threats to psychological warfare used by perpetrators against victimised family members. It is essential that any signs of ongoing trauma should be taken seriously and attended to early so that effective interventions can be provided before conditions worsen too much – leading potentially lead into the diagnosis of PTSD in later years if left untreated.

About the author.
Jay Roberts is the founder of the Debox Method and after nearly 10 years and hundreds of sessions, an expert in the art of emotional release to remove the negative effects of trauma. Through his book, courses, coaching, and talks Jay’s goal is to teach as many people as he can the power of the Debox Method. 

© Debox 2022