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FC Home Mental Illness in Children Post Traumatic Stress Disorder


The information below is reprinted from the website WebMD.  If you wish to learn more about post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in youth, please visit their website at www.webmd.com.  If you have concerns about your child's behavioral health and wish to talk with someone, or have your child undergo an evaluation, please contact the Fulton County Oak Hill Child, Adolescent & Family Center at (404) 612-4111. 

The facility provides behavioral health services to youth between the ages of 0 to 21 years old, and is operated by the Fulton County Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities.   Below is information on post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the WebMD website:



According to WebMD, children are exposed to various forms of traumatic events and violence.  natural disasters, such as tornados or earthquakes, have little potential for being personalized, so they lie on one end of this continuum.  In contrast, victims of rape or torture usually face their assailants.  The more personal the trauma, the more likely long-term psychological problems are to arise from it.

Such traumas are also more likely to include elements of anger and hostility.  In addition, childhood experiences such as sexual abuse may interfere with a child's development and affect him or her throughout life.  Some statistics on youth and PTSD are listed below:

  • Five million children are exposed to a traumatic event in the U.S. every year, amounting 1.8 million new cases of PTSD.¬† Some 36% of children who experience traumatic events develop PTSD, compared with 24% of adults.
  • The younger a child is at the time of the trauma, the more likely he or she is to develop PTSD.¬† 39% of preschoolers develop PTSD in response to trauma, while 33% of middle school children and 27% of teens develop PTSD.



Young Children (1 to 6 years old)

  • Helplessness and passivity, lack of usual responsiveness
  • Generalized fear
  • Heightened arousal and confusion
  • Cognitive confusion
  • Difficulty talking about the event
  • Difficulty identifying feelings
  • Nightmares, sleep disturbances
  • Separation fears and clinging to caregivers
  • Regressive symptoms (for example, returning to bed-wetting or loss of speech/motor skills)¬†¬†
  • Inability to understand death as permanent
  • Anxieties about death
  • Grief related to abandonment by caregiver
  • Physical symptoms (such as stomach aches, headaches)
  • Startled response to loud noises
  • Freezing (sudden immobility)¬†
  • Fussiness, uncharacteristic crying, neediness
  • Avoidance of or alarm response to specific trauma-related reminders involving sights, physical sensations¬†

Signs & Symptoms in School-Aged Children (6 to 11 years old)

  • Feelings of responsibility and guilt
  • Repetitious traumatic play
  • Feeling disturbed by reminders of the event
  • Nightmares, and other sleep disturbances
  • Concerns about safety
  • Aggressive behavior, angry outbursts
  • Fear of feelings, trauma reactions
  • Close attention to parents' anxieties
  • School avoidance
  • Worry/concern for others
  • Behavior, mood, personality changes
  • Physical symptoms (complaints about bodily aches and pains)
  • Obvious anxiety/fearfulness
  • Withdrawal
  • Specific trauma related fears, general fearfulness
  • Regression (behaving like a younger child)
  • Separation anxiety
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Confusion, inadequate understanding of traumatic events (more evident in play than in discussion)
  • Unclear understanding of death, causes of bad events
  • Giving magical explanations to fill in gaps in understanding
  • Loss of ability to concentrate at school, with lower performance
  • Spacey or distractible behavior

Pre-adolescents and adolescents (12 to 18 years old)

  • Self-consciousness
  • Life-threatening re-enactment
  • Rebellion at home or school
  • Abrupt shift in relationships
  • Depression, social withdrawal
  • Decline in school performance
  • Trauma driven acting out, such as sexual activity or other reckless risk-taking
  • Effort to distance self from feelings of shame, guilt, humiliation
  • Excessive activity/involvement with others, or retreat from others in order to manage inner turmoil
  • Accident proneness
  • Wish for revenge, action - oriented responses to trauma
  • Increased self-focusing, withdrawal
  • Sleep/eating disturbances, including nightmares


According to WebMD, treatment of children with PTSD should include the involvement of parents and other important people such as teachers and school counselors in the child's life.  Treatment of traumatic stress in adults is generally focused on individual treatment or group therapy with other individual adults who have experienced a similar type of trauma.

If you have questions or concerns that your child may be experiencing PTSD, please call the Fulton County Oak Hill Child, Adolescent and Family Center at (404) 612-4111.








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