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(c) 2011 by Toni Hoy

Was your child diagnosed with the whole Alphabet Soup? ADD, ADHD, OCD, BD, ODD, CD, LD, bipolar, ETC?

Have you ever wondered why at times, your child has none of those symptoms at all, while at other times he seems to have all the symptoms of every diagnosis all at once?

Perhaps what he really has is PTSD or posttraumtic stress disorder.  PTSD is an anxiety disorder in which the body is unable to handle the emotion of a past trauma. The body moves into “fight or flight” mode as a way of coping with severe physiological stress. While clinicians are trained in “fight or flight” philosophy, they often miss PTSD diagnosis in children, when failing to factor the effects of child abuse and neglect as part of the therapeutic landscape.

A diagnosis of PTSD may be appropriate if your child experiences all the symptoms of the Alphabet Soup only when something triggers a severe anxiety response due to past trauma. When the triggers are not present, no symptoms exist and the child appears very normal.

NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) has a nice brochure on “Understanding Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Recovery.” While our military are certainly at risk, as well as rape victims and others, we often forget that severely abused and neglected children are also at risk of getting PTSD.

I quote the following from a NAMI brochure,

“Traumatic events have a very profound impact on a child’s developing brain, body, and sense of self. Children carry these negative effects of trauma well into adulthood. More than one million reports of abuse and neglect are substantiated by child protection agencies every year in the United States. Children who experience chronic physical, sexual, or emotional abuse struggle in many areas of life. They are still developing cognitively, emotionally, and physically and thus express PTSD in different ways than adults.

Common problems included difficulty regulating their emotional reactions, establishing and maintaining relationships, controlling aggression, low self-esteem and functioning in school. Adolescents who were abused as children are vastly over represented in the juvenile justice and criminal justice systems. They also have high rates of substance abuse and psychiatric illness. Childhood trauma increases the risk of most psychiatric conditions and is a highly prevalent in borderline personality disorder, dissociative disorder and eating disorders.

As adults, people with extensive childhood trauma histories are at higher risk of developing medical problems. A large collaborative study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente focused on the impact of adverse experiences for children. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study found the amount and intensity of childhood trauma correlated with many adult health problems ranging from obesity, alcoholism and depression to heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other serious medical problems. Children learn how to regulate their emotions and sense of self over time through caring relationships. When these relationships are the source of trauma for the child, they can cause confusion and lean to isolation and withdrawal. This may impair the child’s ability to create trusting relationships later in life. These adverse effects underscore why prevention of and early intervention for child abuse whether physical, sexual, or emotional must remain a national priority.”

Source NAMI http://www.nami.org

For those of us with children affected by PTSD, it is important to take note of the final paragraph, which lists a host of medical problems that can follow the child into adulthood. Be conscious of future medical risks that segue into adulthood.

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