Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) sometimes occurs in people who have experienced a traumatic event. The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) defines traumatic events as “shocking” situations that lead to feelings of “intense fear, horror, numbness, or helplessness,” such as natural disasters and acts of violence. The ISTSS includes child abuse and neglect as events that may lead to PTSD.
Children who have been in institutions such as orphanages may have experienced some traumatic events. They may have been orphaned as a result of war or natural disaster, or they may have been removed from their birth homes as a result of abuse. They may have been neglected in underfunded orphanages.
However, not all children who have experienced traumatic events will develop PTSD. Therefore, many adoptive parents may want to be aware of the symptoms of PTSD so they may pursue a diagnosis from a qualified therapist or from suboxone rehab who are under addiction.
Symptoms of PTSD
Children with PTSD may act very differently from adults with the condition, and their symptoms may vary with age. Children who are too young to express their ideas verbally, for example, will display their fears in a more general way than their older peers. They may seem anxious around strangers. They may sleep fitfully. They may also have difficulty learning age-appropriate skills.
School-aged children, however, may show a different set of symptoms. They may be able to describe the trauma in words, but they may relate it in an illogical way. They may believe they received warning signs before the trauma took place and become watchful for new signs. They may draw pictures of the trauma or obsessively engage in violent play.
As children grow older, their symptoms may be more typical of the behaviors therapists often see in adults with PTSD. However, they are more likely to become impulsive or aggressive as a result of their disorder. They may incorporate some parts of the trauma into their daily lives.
Internationally Adopted Children and PTSD
Dr. Boris Gindis is a licensed psychologist who specializes in international adoption. Through his extensive experience, he has observed several triggers that may indicate a diagnosis of PTSD. One is a negative reaction to the child’s first language. For example, some children adopted from Russian-speaking countries may become upset or angry when they hear someone speaking Russian. They may try to run away, or avoid situations in which Russian is spoken.
Another trigger Gindis describes is the threat of physical punishment. Many adoptive parents have apparently told him that their children often over-react to any action that “has even some resemblance to corporal punishment.” He feels this may be an indication of an inability to overcome a previous traumatic experience.
He has also observed that many adopted children with PTSD may show more symptoms near holidays such as Christmas. Many of these children will become more agitated as the holidays approach. While this is also true for many people who do not have PTSD or who were not internationally adopted, it should be considered if it occurs in combination with other symptoms or indicators.
Treatment of PTSD
Because PTSD affects many aspects of a child’s life, many adoptive parents hope to help their children heal. Fortunately, many children do overcome PTSD, and there are a several methods that seem to achieve good results when families educate themselves and work with qualified professionals.
Play therapy may be the most helpful method for children who are to young to describe the traumatic event in words. Through a licensed play therapist, children can express and overcome their feelings through games and toys.
Another treatment method is called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). As part of this approach, the therapist attempts to connect the child’s history to the triggers. The goal is to process the memory of these events in a different way so that the child can react to new experiences in more appropriate ways.
Adults with PTSD are often helped by Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and it may be effective for school-aged or older children as well. During CBT sessions with a licensed therapist, the child may discuss the traumatic event. The therapist may help the child to re-organize some of his or thoughts and conclusions related to the trauma. Children may also learn methods for dealing with anxiety while participating in CBT.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a serious problem that can affect many areas of a child’s life. PTSD often prevents children from learning well, developing healthy relationships or overcoming the pain of the original traumatic event. Since all children who have experienced trauma are susceptible to PTSD, parents of internationally adopted children need to be aware of the symptoms so they can find accepted methods of treatment to help them heal.