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Last Updated on : 19th Apr, 2013

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Posttraumatic Stress

What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder?

Those suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) develop symptoms following exposure to a traumatic event involving actual or threatened death or serious injury or harmful threats to oneself or others. The child or adolescent's response to the traumatic event involves intense fear, helplessness, horror, and/or disorganized or agitated behavior.

A primary feature of posttraumatic stress is that the traumatic event is persistently "re-experienced" by the victim in the form of recurrent, intrusive, and frightening recollections or dreams. The child or adolescent often acts as if the event were about to reoccur through feelings of intense distress or arousal in response to symbolic cues that resemble some aspect of the event.

In addition, affected youths generally avoid objects, people, or places associated with the trauma, fail to remember important details about the event, as well as tend to experience a severe loss of interest in activities, feelings of detachment, restriction of feelings, and/or a sense of shortened future. Further, the child or adolescent will often experience associated symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, irritability or anger outbursts, difficulty concentrating, being overly vigilant, and/or exaggerated startle responses. The disturbance occurs for more than one month and causes marked distress for the child.

As can be seen below, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) currently has the most research evidence for the treatment of young people with PTSD. This treatment can be administered in a variety of different formats, each of which has varying levels of research support.

Child & Adolescent PTSD

Works Well
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  • Trauma focused CBT
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Might Work
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Source: Silverman, W. K., Ortiz, C. D., Viswesvaran, C., Burns, B. J., Kolko, D. J., Putnam, F. W., & Amaya-Jackson, L. (2008). Evidence-based psychosocial treatments for child and adolescent exposed to traumatic events: A review and meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 37, 156-183.

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