Children who experience a life-threatening or dangerous event could experience a range of distressing emotional and behavioral responses. Traumatic exposures might include physical abuse, sexual abuse, death of a loved one, neglect, family separations, natural disasters, intense medical procedures, exposure to domestic violence, community violence, peer relational aggression (bullying), war, and terrorism. The United States of Department of Veteran Affairs approximates that 15% - 40% of children experience a traumatic event.
Common signs or symptoms of PTSD or Trauma Disorders include experiencing flashbacks, nightmares, distress when exposed to a trauma reminder, negative alterations in mood, exaggerated startle responses, continuously scanning for danger, hopelessness, isolation from others, numbness, and avoidance of people or characteristics linked to the traumatic event. Children specifically may relive the traumatic event via play, experience a regression in skills of daily living, and/or enuresis or encopresis. Individuals who meet diagnostic criteria for PTSD might also experience increased anxiety, depression, and risk for substance abuse. Other examples of trauma or stressor disorders include Acute Stress Disorder and Adjustment Disorders.
Individuals who experience PTSD or trauma related disorders could benefit from cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT). In particular, CBT helps individuals re-evaluate their thoughts and emotions associated with the traumatic events while maintaining safety. In general, CBT approaches to traumatic stress incorporate exposure, or the careful and calculated confrontation of traumatic memories.