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 Anxiety  Holistic-online.com

Coping with Violence and Disasters
Strategies for Helping Children and Adolescents

How Children And Adolescents React To Trauma

Reactions to trauma may appear immediately after the traumatic event or days and even weeks later. Loss of trust in adults and fear of the event occurring again are responses seen in many children and adolescents who have been exposed to traumatic events. Other reactions vary according to age:4-7

For children 5 years of age and younger, typical reactions can include:

bulletA fear of being separated from the parent
bulletCrying
bulletWhimpering
bulletScreaming
bulletImmobility and/or aimless motion
bulletTrembling
bulletFrightened facial expressions and 
bulletExcessive clinging. 

Parents may also notice children returning to behaviors exhibited at earlier ages (these are called regressive behaviors), such as:

bulletThumb-sucking
bulletBedwetting, and 
bulletFear of darkness. 

Children in this age bracket tend to be strongly affected by the parents' reactions to the traumatic event.

Children 6 to 11 years old may show:

bulletExtreme withdrawal
bulletDisruptive behavior
bulletInability to pay attention
bulletRegressive behaviors
bulletNightmares
bulletSleep problems
bulletIrrational fears
bulletIrritability
bulletRefusal to attend school
bulletOutbursts of anger and fighting
bulletStomachaches or other bodily symptoms
bulletDepression
bulletAnxiety
bulletFeelings of guilt
bulletEmotional numbing or 'flatness'

Schoolwork often suffers.

Adolescents 12 to 17 years old may exhibit responses similar to those of adults, including:

bulletFlashbacks
bulletNightmares
bulletEmotional numbing
bulletAvoidance of any reminders of the traumatic event
bulletDepression
bulletSubstance abuse
bulletProblems with peers
bulletAnti-social behavior
bulletWithdrawal and isolation
bulletPhysical complaints
bulletSuicidal thoughts
bulletSchool avoidance
bulletAcademic decline
bulletSleep disturbances
bulletConfusion

The adolescent may feel extreme guilt over his or her failure to prevent injury or loss of life, and may harbor revenge fantasies that interfere with recovery from the trauma.

Some youngsters are more vulnerable to trauma than others. It has been shown that the impact of a traumatic event is likely to be greatest in the child or adolescent who previously has been the victim of child abuse or some other form of trauma, or who already had a mental health problem.8-11 And the youngster who lacks family support is more at risk for a poor recovery.12

Source: NIMH

Related Topic: Children and PTSD

Next Topic: Helping the Child or Adolescent Trauma Survivor

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