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For every soldier returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with symptoms of depression or PTSD, there are around 10 children in the United States who are traumatized by exposure to family violence, sexual abuse, neglect and assault, with consequences comparable to those of adult exposure to war-zone violence.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress defines traumatic stress as, “the emotional, cognitive, behavioral, physiological experience of individuals who are exposed to, or who witness, events that overwhelm their coping and problem-solving abilities."
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was first brought to public attention by war veterans and was called 'shell shock' or 'battle fatigue'. However, PTSD can result from any traumatic event that is witnessed by a person, occurred in a person's life, or happened to a friend or family member of that person. Such events include:
The one-million children who suffer abuse each year as well as those who have had other previous traumatic experiences are more likely than others to develop PTSD.
Other risk factors for developing PTSD include:
PTSD can occur at any age, including childhood. The disorder can be accompanied by depression, substance abuse, anxiety, and/or self-injurious behavior. Symptoms may be mild or severe -- people may become easily irritated or have violent outbursts. In general, the symptoms seem to be worse if the traumatic event was initiated by a person (i.e., assault) rather than a natural disaster (i.e., flood).
Research has found rates of PTSD among adolescents ranging from 6.3% (in a community sample of older adolescents) to 29.6% (in substance-dependent adolescents receiving treatment, ages 15 to 19). And, among the substance-dependent adolescents, 19.2% currently had PTSD.
Not every traumatized person gets PTSD. Most people will experience some of the symptoms of PTSD in the days and weeks following the trauma, but the symptoms generally decrease over time and eventually disappear.
PTSD is diagnosed only if the any or all of the following symptoms last more than a month:
Being emotionally detached after a trauma is not a healthy response. This emotional distancing stuffs the feelings inside, shuts out those who can give help and support, and puts the individual at greater risk for developing PTSD.
Family and friends can give support and comfort by listening to victims talk about their experiences and feelings very soon after the event. The National Association of School Psychologists suggests that children process their emotions and reactions to a trauma within 24 hours to 36 hours following a crisis in order to prevent PTSD.
Occasionally, PTSD doesn't show up until months or even years after the traumatic event. Recovery is influenced by early detection, intervention, and mental health treatment (including cognitive-behavioral therapy and group therapy). Parents play a vital role in getting this help and support for their child.
Information provided by the Office on Women's Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists ~ Professional international organization providing support, education, intervention and treatment in the field of traumatic stress.
Child Trauma Institute ~ Provides training, consultation, information, and resources for those who work with trauma-exposed children, adolescents, and adults.
Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma ~ Global network of journalists, journalism educators and health professionals dedicated to improving media coverage of trauma, conflict and tragedy. The Center also addresses the consequences of such coverage for those working in journalism.
DividedHeart.com ~ Online Christian support community.
Gift From Within ~ International organization for survivors of trauma and victimization.
Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome Support ~ Neutral, non-judgmental, non-religion based, non-political online support, information, help and healing for women who've had an abortion.
Sidran Institute ~ ~ Education, training, and advocacy on traumatic stress and related issues.
Information on PTSD
Betrayal ~ All trauma includes some type of betrayal in that betrayal signifies loss – loss of trust, loss of safety, loss of predictability, loss of a relationship.
Children and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: What Classroom Teachers Should Know ~ Although professional assistance is ultimately essential in cases of PTSD, classroom teachers must deal with the immediate daily impact. Becoming an informed teacher isthe first step in helping traumatized children avoid the life long consequences of PTSD.
David Baldwin's Trauma Information Pages ~ Information for clinicians and researchers in the traumatic-stress field.
Expert Consensus Guidelines for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Guide for Patients and Families (pdf) ~ This guide is designed to answer the most commonly asked questions about PTSD, including symptoms, types of treatment, prevention, and recovery help.
Healing from Shame Associated with Traumatic Events ~ Shame is a debilitating emotion that piggybacks on top of trauma. Shame complicates the healing and recovery process from trauma on many levels including psychologically (victims blame themselves for being vulnerable) and spiritually (changes relationship with higher power).
How Fear Changes What We Hear ~ Fear can literally change our perception, a process that may help researchers better understand post-traumatic stress disorder, other anxiety disorders and possibly conditions like autism.
Obtaining Social Security Benefits for PTSD ~ Policies, procedures, and qualifications.
Psychological First Aid: A Guide for Field Workers (pdf) ~ This guide covers psychological first aid which involves humane, supportive and practical help to fellow human being suffering serious crisis events. It is written for people in a position to help others who have experienced an extremely distressing event. It gives a framework for supporting people in ways that respect their dignity, culture and abilities. This guide covers both social and psychological support.
The Impact of the Invisible Injuries of War: Helping Your Family and Children (pdf) ~ This fact sheet addresses the impact of the invisible injuries of war on military families and children, and provides some action steps that families can take to manage the challenges of dealing with a parental injury that is not visible to the outside world.
Tips for Talking with Children and Youth After Traumatic Events: A Guide for Parents and Educators (pdf) ~ This guide describes signs of stress reactions that are common in young trauma survivors at different ages, offers tips on how to help, and will help parents and teachers recognize and address problems in children and teens affected by the trauma after an act of violence.
Trauma and the Body ~ Often we think of memory as a task for our brains alone. However, it is critical to recognize that our bodies, as a whole, record and respond to patterns of experience. In addition to our mental responses, our bodies rally in self-protection through pulse rate, muscle tension, skeletal structure, or neurological mapping. In fact, every experience you’ve had involved body sensations that can be anchored in the tissue itself. And your reaction to life’s threatening experiences may also be recorded in your body.
Trauma Treatment Manual ~ Originally written for people working in the field with women survivors of rape in Bosnia, but it can be used more broadly as a guide for helping anyone of either gender who has survived any kind of trauma.
What is Betrayal Trauma? ~ Betrayal is often at the root of PTSD. The trauma is perpetuated by someone the person should have been able to trust; in short, the person has been betrayed. Also read Dr. Freyd's article, Exposure to Betrayal Trauma and Risks to the Well-Being of Girls and Women (pdf).
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