September 23, 2020 / By thadmin2
What I need to know to help my child with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- What is PTSD?
- What are the consequences of PTSD?
- What types of therapies does Thrive Psychology Clinic provide for children and youths with PTSD?
- Support and resources for parents
What is a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that may occur in individuals who have been directly or indirectly exposed to a traumatic event, such as actual or threatened death, serious injury/accident or sexual violation. Such exposure can generally arise from one or more of the following scenarios.
- Directly experiencing the traumatic event
- Witnessing the traumatic event
- Learning about the traumatic event (occurred to a close family member or friend)
- Repeated exposure to extreme aversive details of the traumatic event (i.e. police officers, Counsellors/Psychologists)
That being said, not everyone who experiences traumatic events will suffer from PTSD, as the severity of triggers and the subsequent impact on one’s physical and psychological health can differ from individual to individual. Research has found that approximately 1 in 11 people will suffer from PTSD in their lifetime. In the United States, PTSD affects an estimated 5 percent of adolescents, and 3.6 percent of adults over the age of 18. The prevalence of PTSD is also generally higher for females, where they are twice as likely to have PTSD as compared to males.
The symptoms of PTSD can be categorised into four distinct diagnostic clusters.
- Re-experiencing: Having disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their traumatic experience, which can last long after the event has ended. Individuals may experience flashbacks so vivid, that it feels as though they are re-experiencing the traumatic event again.
- Avoidance: Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event in fear of triggering stressful memories i.e. places, people, objects, activities, situations.
- Negative thoughts and mood: Constant feelings of sadness, fear, anger, guilt and self-blame; being emotionally distant from others, even family or close friends; loss of interest in one’s usual activities; distorted and false beliefs about themselves and others
- Over-sensitivity: Overly suspicious of surroundings; reckless, easily irritated and aggressive; sleep difficulties and insomnia
What are the consequences of PTSD?
Individuals with PTSD can suffer significant distress in their day-to-day lives. The presence of such persistent symptoms can result in many physical and psychological problems, if left untreated. In particular, one may experience considerable difficulties in their social relationships, professional/academic work capacity, as well as other key areas of functioning.
With children, the effects of PTSD may interfere with their cognitive and social development. Studies have found that early exposure to severe stress and trauma can affect certain brain regions, which may in part impair the child’s ability to reach social, emotional and academic milestones later on in life. In addition, there are often other related conditions that may be more likely to co-occur with PTSD, such as depression, anxiety and substance use disorders. As such, it is important that any suspected PTSD cases be diagnosed and treated as soon as noticeable. Aside from the aforementioned symptoms of PTSD, some signs specific to children include the display of more fearful and regressive (act younger than their age) behaviours, as well as the reenactment of trauma through play.
Contact us for an appointment to receive a psychological assessment for your child.
What types of therapies does Thrive Psychology Clinic provide for children and youths with PTSD?
At Thrive Psychology Clinic, we recognise the uniqueness of each individual. Hence, we are always broadening our therapeutic services to ensure that all our clients’ have their mental well-being cared for in an individualised manner.
Here are some therapies that may help a child with PTSD.
- Behavioural Therapy (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy; Exposure Therapy)
- Virtual Reality Therapy
- Neurocognitive Therapy
Two of the most well-established evidence-based treatments for PTSD are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Exposure Therapy. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that guides clients in the identification of their negative patterns of thinking and beliefs. In the case of PTSD, CBT is trauma-focused, and often includes practices like identifying the key processes that are maintaining and continuing the client’s distress. This is followed by the use of cognitive restructuring, which helps individuals to make sense of their traumatic experience and to get realistic perspectives and meaningful insight on it. On some occasions, one may have a distorted memory of what actually happened during the traumatic event, which is a key aspect that cognitive behavioural therapy can help to address.
Exposure therapy for children involves the exposure to the feared situation or object, and in this case, gradual confrontation of the traumatic experience. Under the comforting guidance of our in-house Psychologists, patients will be exposed to said stimuli, in a realistically safe manner, until their anxiety and distress lessens. Continued exposure helps to reduce avoidance behaviour associated with the traumatic experience. Traditionally, exposure therapy involves either in-vivo (real-life), imaginal or interoceptive (physical sensations) exposure.
At Thrive Psychology Clinic, exposure therapy can also be conducted virtually through the use of Virtual Reality Therapy (VRT). With the use of personalised computer-simulated virtual environments, Psychologists will be able to conveniently carry out exposure therapy for clients, with little or no constraints. This is particularly useful for PTSD, as traumatic experiences often vary in complexity for different individuals, and often require personalisation which may be logistically and time-consuming. In addition, some traumatic experiences may be unsafe to re-visit via in-vivo e.g. war, car accidents, which renders VRT a good alternative.
If you wish to learn more about behavioural therapy, you may consider checking out our online workshop on the topic.
Enquire about our assessments available.
Parenting a child with PTSD.
- Support and resources for parents
Parenting in itself is not an easy feat. At Thrive Psychology Clinic, we recognise the need to support parents and caregivers through:
- Educating caregivers of children and youths with special needs e.g., workshops and webinars at Thrive Psychology Clinic
- Providing advice on how to manage their stress
- Developing their skill in identifying the ABC’s (i.e., antecedent, behaviour, and consequence) such as P.O.W.E.R. in Behavioural Therapy (preview video displayed below)
- Encouraging caregivers to accept their child with special needs and not feel despair
- Creating self-help online resources for parents who wish to educate themselves more
- Regularly providing complimentary educational resources by subscribing to our mailing list and social media platforms