PTSD symptoms in children mostly go unnoticed by parents: Study

PTSD symptoms in children mostly go unnoticed by parents: Study

The fact that most mental disorders go unnoticed is often cited as a major reason for the increasing number of mentally ill people not getting the required treatment for their mental health problems. A recent study by the University of East Angelia suggests that young children might be under the grip of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for years, with their parents failing to recognize the symptoms.

The study, titled “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Young Children 3 Years Posttrauma: Prevalence and Longitudinal Predictors,” examined the long-term course of the disorder and the factors which help predict the disorder in children. In the study, the researchers stressed how the signs of suffering in children remain undiagnosed and misinterpreted for years by parents.

Lead author Dr. Richard Meiser-Stedman from University of East Anglia’s (UEA’s) Norwich Medical School said, “When people talk about PTSD they often think about soldiers returning from war zones. But children who experience traumatic events such as car accidents, assaults, and natural disasters are also at risk of developing PTSD. Symptoms can include traumatic memories and nightmares, avoiding reminders of the trauma, and feeling like the world is very unsafe.”

For the study, published online in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in November 2016, the scientists wanted to examine the extent of PTSD in children three years after their traumatic experiences and the degree of perception of the parents regarding their children’s mental illness.

The researchers observed over 100 children, aged between two and 10 years, who were involved in a road accident. All these children were admitted in emergency in South London between May 2004 and November 2005 with varied injuries. The children were then examined for PTSD between two and four weeks after the incident. This was followed with a check-up after six months of hospital admission and lastly at the end of three years after the incident.

Parents’ mental health also affects children

An assessment of the children was done using standard criteria to detect presence of PTSD in young children. Also, children above the age of seven years were interviewed and their parents or caretakers were questioned. The scientists observed:

  • Children exhibiting symptoms of stress immediately after a traumatic experience not affected by PTSD after three years.
  • Some children may suffer from PTSD that remain for a prolonged period following a trauma, but it was limited to a few cases.
  • In many cases, parents of the affected children, who were suffering from the problem even after three years, failed to recognize their children’s symptoms. Thus, physicians could not rely on parents’ reports during the diagnosis.
  • Gravity of trauma was found to be associated with the prevalence of PTSD up to half-a-year after an accident, while the same was not observed after three years.
  • Intelligence and age of the child were not associated.
  • Likelihood of suffering from PTSD was greater in children afflicted with trauma if their parents also had the same disorder.

Timely diagnosis of PTSD necessary for sound mental health

Dr. Meiser-Stedman said, “We found that children may experience PTSD for years without it being recognized by their parents. We also found a strong link between parents suffering PTSD and their children suffering as well – even years after the traumatic event.”

The authors expressed their concern in such cases where the parents were still unlikely to accept their children’s suffering. The study also emphasized on the necessity of considering parental health. The need to provide adequate support for both children and their parents after the incidence of trauma had been recognized as a necessary measure to alleviate the long-term impact of the disorder.

Scope of recovery

If you know someone who is suffering from any mental disorder, contact Sovereign Health to know about our mental health centers in California. Timely treatment is important to prevent any escalation of the problem. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-973-7164 or chat online with our counselors to get more information on our mental health rehabilitation centers in California and other states.

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