Psychological Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD involves persistent anxiety following the experience of a traumatic event such as violence, a disaster (e.g., tornado), serious injury or illness, and abuse. PTSD is unique amongst anxiety disorders in that it is the only disorder that requires a precipitating event. The core symptoms of PTSD include: Re-experiencing the terrible event through upsetting thoughts, images or nightmares; Avoidance of people, places or activities associated with the event OR loss of interest or a sense of foreshortened future; and Hypervigilance or being “on alert” resulting in irritability, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, and being easily startled.

Not all children who experience a traumatic event will develop PTSD. Children vary in their responses to trauma and are often strongly affected by parents’ reactions to the traumatic event. Estimates regarding the number of youth experiencing PTSD vary widely; however, it is estimated that ¼ of all American youth experience a traumatic event by age 16.

Helpful Websites

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Department of Veterans Affairs

Books for Children & Teens

A Terrible Thing Happened
By Margaret M. Holmes; Illustrated by Cary Pillo


National Institute for Mental Health: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder