Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Also known as: PTSD.

What is post-traumatic stress disorder?

All children and adolescents have bad, stressful experiences which may affect them physically and emotionally. Mostly they recover quickly without any further problems.

Sometimes, particularly after a threatened or actual catastrophic incident (whether involving themselves or being a witness to such an event), children/adolescents may experience ongoing difficulties/symptoms which are called post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

What causes post-traumatic stress disorder in children and teens?

Following the traumatic event, (such as war, abuse, violence, etc.), children who have fewer emotional or intellectual resources to cope, may suffer ongoing symptoms even though he/she has healed from the immediate effects of the negative experience.

What are the symptoms of PTSD in children and teens?

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder are appear as:

  • avoidance
  • re-experiencing of symptoms
  • cognition and mood symptoms
  • ongoing agitation
  • confusion
  • intense fear and anger
  • sadness
  • horror or denial
  • reckless and/or destructive behavior
  • flashbacks (relive the traumatic experience)
  • difficulty falling or staying asleep and bad dreams.
Children and teens with PTSD may avoid areas/situations that remind them of the event, and feel on edge, depressed or anxious, they wil also worry about dying early, be disinterested in outside activities, have concentration problems, repeated headaches or stomachaches. PTSD symptoms may last for many weeks or even years.

What are post-traumatic stress disorder care options?

Children and adolescents with PTSD need a safe environment, support and reassurance from parents, schools and friends. Psychotherapy (individual or group), behavioral modification techniques (CBT), relaxation techniques, and cognitive therapy, with or without medication to reduce fears and worries, may be required to manage anxiety, agitation or depression.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: November 27, 2019 10:39 AM

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Psychotic Disorders

Severe mental problems that interfere with a child or adolescent’s ability to think clearly, respond emotionally, communicate normally, cause unusual perceptions or delusions, are known as psychotic disorders. Learn more


A phobia is an excessive, unreasonable, persistent fear of something, place or situation, that causes the child to feel anxious when exposed to it. Learn more


Psychotherapy is a form of therapy and counseling that is conducted by a mental health professional, for example a psychologist, a licensed mental health counselor, social worker or a psychiatrist. Learn more