Children can develop Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after experiencing a terrifying event. The symptoms a child may exhibit can include flashbacks, nightmares, severe Anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about the event. While not all children who live through a traumatic event will develop this disorder, PTSD can affect youths of all ages and ethnicities. Post-traumatic stress disorder develops differently in each person who experiences it. Some individuals may notice symptoms in the days and weeks following the event while others do not develop symptoms for weeks, months, or even years after the event.

Some common symptoms children with PTSD may exhibit include:

  • Shock
  • Denial or disbelief
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Guilt, shame, or self-blame
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Feeling disconnected or numb

Traumatic experiences and stressor play a key role in the bringing out specific mental behaviors in the child. Some of the experiences which impact a child are listed include exposure to:

  • Death
  • Threatened death
  • Actual or threatened serious injury
  • Actual or threatened sexual violence

This above can impact the child through direct exposure, witnessing the trauma, in person or indirectly, or by learning that a close relative or close friend was exposed to trauma.

When a child experiences a particular stressor or traumatic event, this may persistently be re-experienced by your child in one or more of the following ways:

  • Intrusive thoughts: Recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive memories. Note: Children older than six may express this symptom in repetitive play
  • Nightmares
  • Dissociative reactions (e.g., flashbacks) which may occur on a continual basis from brief episodes to complete loss of consciousness
  • Intense or prolonged distress after exposure to traumatic reminders
  • Marked physiologic reactivity after exposure to trauma-related stimuli

Other ways in which children may react to trauma include:

  • Avoidance of Trauma-related thoughts or feelings or Trauma-related external reminders (e.g., people, places, conversations, activities, objects, or situations)
  • Negative thoughts or feelings that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s): (two required)
  • The inability to recall key features of the trauma (usually dissociative amnesia; not due to head injury, alcohol, or drugs)
  • Overly (and often distorted) negative thoughts and assumptions about oneself or the world (e.g., “I am bad,” “The world is completely dangerous”)
  • Exaggerated blame of self or others for causing the trauma event or for resulting consequences
  • Negative affect / negative trauma-related emotions (e.g., fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame)
  • Decreased interest in (pre-traumatic) activities
  • Feeling isolated (e.g., detachment or estrangement)
  • Difficulty experiencing positive affect / persistent inability to experience positive emotions
  • Increased irritability or aggression
  • Risky or destructive behavior
  • Hypervigilance
  • Heightened startle reaction
  • Difficulty concentrating or sleeping
  • Depersonalization which is experience of being an outside observer of or detached from oneself (e.g., feeling as if “this is not happening to me” or one were in a dream)


At IDCC, we have found through treating many cases of trauma, that children can heal from PTSD and traumatic events. Our clinical director is a trauma specialist and has provided training for our staff in evidence-based trauma treatment. Clinicians are trained to take various other items into account when working with a child including their culture, religion, and family arrangement. By building a strong relationship with the child, our clinicians get to the root of the triggers which in turn enables a strong recovery.


Group and Individual treatment for Trauma is usually recommended by a therapist who specializes in this field. This treatment can help children and families cope with the impact of traumatic events and move toward recovery. Each child’s treatment depends on the nature, timing, and amount of exposure to a trauma.

en_USEnglish es_PRSpanish