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Dealing with a PTSD Child Discussed by Dr. Sharmistha Barai

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that can develop in people who have encountered a shocking, scary or traumatic event in their lives. Not only adults, even children can be victims of PTSD of varying degrees, depending on the circumstance. It is more complicated to deal with a child with PTSD than an adult because they are unable to convey their feelings or comprehend the gravity of the situation. Hence, it calls for a great amount of effort while handling children with PTSD.

A child especially one living with PTSD can never come up and say that he/she is facing a problem. But the child will certainly exhibit signs and symptoms that the elders would be able to read and make out that he or she has a problem.

For instance, a child who witnesses a shootout in his school would tend to withdraw from others, which is a deviation from the natural behavior. The incident might play out in a macabre form in the deep recesses of their minds, at all times, making the child quite furtive in subsequent dealings. This could be a tell-tale sign of PTSD in such a child and the parents or guardians should step on the gas and seek immediate help from experts before the situation goes out of hand.

Compared to boys, girls have a higher propensity to develop PTSD after a shocking event. But it also depends on how traumatic the stressor is.

Not shying away from discussing the traumatic event

Most people think that discussing a traumatic event with the child would only worsen the situation and push them deeper into the problem. This is a myth. On the contrary, the child should be taught to view the traumatic event in a different light which would somewhat assuage the pain, bringing immediate relief.

Showing love, affection and care: Children suffering from PTSD keep brooding and sulking silently and are reluctant to come out in the open or discuss the problem with parents and elders. They are too petrified to go for counseling or confide in parents. Instead, they keep on brewing on the resentment internally. However, creating a supportive environment and demonstrating love and care would encourage such a child to come out in the open and discuss the problem with parents and elders in the family. The sooner a parent does this, the better it is for the child as it would help the child enjoy his or her childhood.

When a child feels loved and cared for, he/she would be able to get over the wound inflicted from a traumatic event. Love and encouragement will bring out the best in such a child which would also help in resolving the PTSD. Lending them an eager ear and caring sincerely for them would help overcome the turmoil.

Seeking help from experts

Seeking expert advice is the most important step while caring for a child with PTSD. Showing love, care and compassion may help pave the way to healing but the actual counseling and scientific therapies can only be provided by an expert psychologist. However, it is subjective and depends on the severity of the case. Seeking professional help from clinicians would ensure the child's safety and would help in avoiding any pitfalls.

Dealing with mental health problems

Mental health problems are delicate and could exacerbate if not intervened at the right juncture. It is advisable to address them at the earliest so that they do not snowball into something more complicated in the future.

For more details you can consult with Dr. Sharmistha Barai. Dr. Barai is a Child psychiatrist based in Saint Louis, Missouri, using her talents and expertise to treat clients for depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar and personality disorders. She specializes in general psycho-geriatrics, child and adolescent psychiatry, drug and alcohol.

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