Posttraumatic stress disorder among children

26 липня 2023 р.

A woman helps a child with stress

Posttraumatic stress disorder among children

26 липня 2023 р.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that occurs in children and often appears about six months after a traumatic experience. The likelihood of accelerated development of PTSD is higher when the stressor has a prolonged and significant impact, such as living under occupation or constant shelling and air raids.

Here are the main signs of PTSD in children:

1. Constant thoughts about the traumatic event

2. Emotional changes, such as aggression, irritability, depression, apathy, impulsivity and emotional detachment

3. Sleep disturbances such as nightmares, insomnia or excessive sleepiness

4. Increased anxiety and anticipation of similar events

5. Unstable attention and memory

6. Self-harm, alcoholism or drug addiction (more common among adolescents)

In order to minimise the effects of PTSD in children, parents should prioritise their own psychological stability in order to effectively support their children. Here are steps to help prevent childhood PTSD:

1. Restore the child's sense of security

2. Involve your child in physical education, dancing and outdoor activities

3. Restore the daily routine

4. Spend quality time with your child by cooking, talking or walking with him/her

5. Listen to your child when they need to talk and answer their questions

6. Allow them to express their feelings and emotions

7. Explain the traumatic event honestly and in an age-appropriate way, helping the child to understand the wider context and reasons behind it

8. Encourage the child's social participation and activity

9. Seek support from a psychologist

Children with PTSD face an increased risk of suicide and self-harm. You may consider inpatient treatment with a psychologist. For younger children, a playful approach to processing the trauma while avoiding re-enactment may be helpful.

If your child has experienced a loss, witnessed traumatic events, or experienced significant life changes due to the war, seeking professional help is crucial, especially if the difficulties continue for several weeks. During a consultation with your family doctor, you can get recommendations for rehabilitation after a stressful disorder. Remember that recovery takes time and the support of balanced parents and professional psychologists to help with the healing process.

Art therapy is useful for people with PTSD as it provides an outlet for self-expression when verbal communication is difficult. A study conducted by UkrSocStandard showed that 52% of Mariupol residents have signs of PTSD. During times of severe stress, normal memory processes involving the amygdala, hippocampus and prefrontal cortex can be disrupted. This can lead to fragmented memories without a clear context or understanding of the traumatic event.

Art therapy offers a wide range of activities that allow people to safely confront and process their fears and anxieties. By transforming their emotions into tangible forms, such as through artwork, people can access and work through their traumatic memories. The visualisation techniques used in art therapy help regulate unpleasant emotions and promote self-love, leading to a more resourceful state. Art therapy addresses a variety of psychological issues, including trauma, loss, conflict, stress and age-related crises.

Conducting art therapy sessions at home is relatively easy. All you need are basic materials such as paper, paints and brushes. For example, finger painting provides tactile stimulation and reflexive massage, which has a positive effect on the nervous system. Creating collages involves making cut-outs on a chosen topic, which helps to develop predictive thinking and establish a connection with the subconscious mind. Drawing mandalas or circular patterns, which originate from Hinduism and Buddhism, can promote meditation and introspection.

Art therapy is a powerful tool for people who find it difficult to express emotions and thoughts. It allows for an initial exploration of difficult topics through artistic expression, which paves the way for further discussion and understanding.