Can children can get Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? When I think of the wars, conflicts, abuse, and other trauma affecting children in other parts of the world, it makes me very sad. I am amazed to hear stories of their survival, and that they can grow and move on. But at what cost to their mental and physical health?
We are so fortunate to live in the U.S. where major traumatic events such as school shootings, although they are shocking at the time, are not a daily occurrence in our lives. When it does happen, it often highlights that the perpetrator has a history of childhood trauma, and more likely than not has PTSD. It also reminds us that we need to take care of the emotional health of our children.
A newborn enters the world facing days or months in the hospital due to prematurity or difficulties with delivery. They are exposed noise, lights, invasive poking and tubes down their throat. It is miraculous that they survived and get to go home! But in the early developmental stages parents may experience what looks like screams of pain at times of bathing, dressing, eating, diaper changes, and sleeping.
Sheryl is very smart, sweet and wonderful at home. But at school the kids tease her because of how she looks and she isn’t well-coordinated in gym class. She is withdrawn, has no friends, starts having problems with learning, and the teachers are concerned.
Amy’s parents are fighting all the time at home. All she can do is hide in her bedroom and cry.
Troy and Michelle are homeless. Every day is a struggle for basic needs: shelter, to get a bath, wear clean clothes and eat good food.
Monique and her dad were in a car accident. Now, months later, she still feels apprehensive and physically sick every time she gets in the car.
Jerry is a teenager. His hormones are just starting to kick in. He is starting to be aware of who he is and that he is gay. His peers bully and torment him so much that he is considering suicide at the age of 14.
Each of these children are experiencing prolonged negative stress or emotional trauma with the feeling of NO CONTROL. It can affect their self-esteem, ability to feel safe, physical health and happiness, and could be classified as PTSD. Their symptoms are frequently expressed in their behavior, and this is often a missed diagnosis.
Here are some of the symptoms to look for:
- withdrawn, depressed, isolated, indifference, detachment
- school problems – no interest in learning, aggression
- panic anxiety, insecurity, irritability, emotional melt downs
- poor self-esteem, confusion, poor sleep (nightmares)
- physical health: headaches, stomach, rashes, poor eating
- extra sensitivity to events, places or people (see SPD)
There are many therapies that assist children to work through their feelings and emotions connected to their stress or trauma, art therapy being one of my favorites. However, most currently used therapies work at a cognitive, mental or psychological level.
The MNRI approach that I use, developed by Dr. Svetlana Masgutova, is different. She has used it for thousands of survivors of tragedy since 1986 and has developed a specific protocol for PTSD. This was successfully used in Newtown in the recovery of 218 survivors of the Sandy Hook tragedy.
This gentle protocol works at the “cellular level” in the body. It targets the fight/flight/freeze response connected to fear, and other circuits between the body and brain that keep running amok – re-creating the original stress. MNRI helps to turn this off, brings the body to the present, and returns this response to what it is intended to do – turn on only as needed to keep you safe. It is the “missing link” to healing PTSD.
Contact me today to start the healing process to help your child return to who they were born to be – feeling safe, happy and full of life.