Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in Children and Adolescents

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) develops as the result of experiencing a trauma Exposure to a traumatic event (e.g. abuse, death of a loved one, witnessing a crime or accident) does not necessarily lead to PTSD though children and adolescents may still experience some PTSD symptoms.

In order to be diagnosed with PTSD, the symptoms must be present for at least one month following the trauma. In younger children, there may not be an obvious connection between the trauma and the PTSD symptoms whereas older adolescents may have more insight


PTSD is characterized by three broad categories of symptoms:

  • Reexperiencing the traumatic event through thoughts or dreams of the event, or intense distress when exposed to reminders of the event
  • Avoidance of thoughts, feelings, images or locations that remind the child or adolescent of or are associated with the traumatic event
  • Increased arousal such as hypervigilance, irritability, exaggerated startle response and sleeping difficulties.