When posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs, the brain gets stuck in the trauma and relives it over and over again. Reminders of the trauma can trigger a flood of stress hormones before a child even knows what is happening. Reminders of the trauma might be a sound or a smell such as what a child ate for dinner the night that “mommy and daddy got really mad.” High levels of stress hormones interfere with brain development and learning.
Symptoms of childhood PTSD include:
- • Zoning out, withdrawing
- • Sleep problems such as night terrors or repeated night wakings
- • Loss of developmental skills such as a child who is learning to speak suddenly stops talking
- • Violent play such as acting out threats and physical attacks with toys over and over again
By recognizing the symptoms of PTSD, we can help children to get treatment as soon as possible. Therapists who have experience working with childhood PTSD have a variety of techniques to work with young children.