Childhood. A time full of innocence, playfulness, and hyperactivity. When thinking of their childhood, one might fondly reminisce about a family BBQ or a summer spent in the park with other energetic little rugrats. However, not every person will remember their childhood nostalgically. Many people who have undergone traumatic experiences in their childhood are still negatively affected by those events today.
People may develop PTSD if they have experienced events that have caused them or someone else pain and distress. This can include instances of sexual, emotional, or physical abuse, as well as disasters, and war. Child protection services receive nearly three million reports each year, involving approximately five million children. Three to ten million children witness family violence and 30% of reported cases have evidence of abuse (National Center for Veterans Affairs). Children may not experience flashbacks or memory issues in the way that adults with PTSD do. They may also display signs of PTSD in the way they play such as reenacting the incident (National Center for PTSD, 2007).
Children who have experienced traumatic events can also develop signs of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. They are also more likely to engage in substance use, aggressive behavior, and have difficulty paying attention. As a result, these children are more likely to perform poorly in school, engage in high-risk behavior, and have run-ins with the juvenile justice or social welfare system (Stewart et. al, 2017). These events may increase a person’s sensitivity to emotional conflict and make it more difficult to process and regulate emotions. PTSD can also create a tendency to avoid negative emotional expression (Chung et. al, 2017). If untreated, these symptoms and illnesses can continue into adulthood.
Hope Hill was diagnosed with PTSD at the age of 14 but, despite her early diagnosis, felt that she was isolated from receiving help for her PTSD. Usually, people with PTSD resulting from childhood trauma are not diagnosed until they reach adulthood. She lamented “I was given medications that worked for adults with PTSD. They worked, but no one talked to me about how being diagnosed as a child would affect me. Because there was no place for me. Doctors wrote notes in charts but didn’t explain them to me…There was no support group for kids like me. So, I taught myself the tricks of the trade. I constantly looked up things about PTSD and how to manage it. Since I didn’t know anyone who’d fought this disorder I cobbled together all the coping mechanisms I could find. I didn’t care where they came from, only that they worked.” (Hope et. al, 2017)
Providing early support to those who suffer from PTSD can make a world of a difference. We must work harder to provide them with sufficient care and treatment. While childhood is often associated with naivety, it’s important to recognize that they, like adults, can also experience trauma and developmental illnesses.
PTSD: National Center for PTSD. (2007, January 01). https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/family/ptsd-children-adolescents.asp
Chung, M. )., & Chen, Z. ). (2017). Child Abuse and Psychiatric Co-morbidity Among Chinese Adolescents: Emotional Processing as Mediator and PTSD from Past Trauma as Moderator. Child Psychiatry And Human Development, 48(4), 610-618. doi:10.1007/s10578-016-0687-7
Hill, H., Stirling, A., Killmer, C., Bloemendaal, C., Speas, J., & Kee, A. (2017, March 25). I Was Diagnosed With PTSD at 14, but There Was No Place for Me. https://themighty.com/2017/03/childhood-teen-ptsd-foster-kids-where-to-go/
Stewart, R. )., Ebesutani, C. )., Drescher, C. )., & Young, J. ). (2017). The Child PTSD Symptom Scale: An Investigation of Its Psychometric Properties. Journal Of Interpersonal Violence, 32(15), 2237-2256. doi:10.1177/0886260515596536