Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is often associated with war or combat veterans who have experienced physical injury, assault or threat of death. It imposes profound, lingering impacts that can often last a lifetime. Children who are victims of physical or sexual abuse or neglect have their own first-hand accounts of combat… and can sometimes suffer from PTSD as a result.
I’m just beginning to learn more about PTSD thanks to one of my new social media connections, Steve Sparks. Steve is an engaged PTSD activist and has made it his life mission to raise awareness and knowledge of this disorder and help victims who suffer.
Steve himself grew up in an abusive home where his father was a WWII veteran severely inflicted by PTSD. He reflects on his abusive childhood in his blog/forum “Families Living With PTSD“ where he writes:
“I know from my own childhood experience that a toxic home means kids can be affected with the same symptoms of PTSD as parents who suffer from traumatic events in life… including combat stress. Mental and physical abuse was a big secret in our home as a young boy growing up following WWII and the Korean War. It was a lonely and isolated world. A no way out feeling. We didn’t talk about it, we lied to our friends, coaches, and teachers. We didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. We siblings even took it out on each other to vent our anger toward the crazy world at home.
“It was a challenge to get up each day and face the world as a young boy. The name of the game was dodging bullets and hiding while our parents acted out in anger and emotional numbness. We didn’t feel loved or cared about that much. My goal was to survive until age 17 and join the US Navy to get away from all of it forever… but we abused children carry the emotional baggage forward. It took me most of my adult life to get all the emotional garbage sorted out and achieve some peace of mind.”
Having connected with Steve, I am learning more about this affliction and its impact on both adults and children. There are several PTSD facts I found intriguing, including…
•PTSD is more prevalent in women than in men.
•7-8% of the U.S. population will be afflicted with PTSD at some point in their lives.
•Most people who survive a severe injury, traumatic event, assault or threat of death do not develop PTSD.
•Children can develop PTSD, but symptoms seem to be more prevalent as a child ages. Only about 5% of adolescents develop childhood PTSD.
PTSD symptoms in children can be similar to those in adults, with some very specific features based on their age.
Elementary School-Aged Children:
Younger children will experience PTSD in ways that are different from adults. Primarily, they do not typically have flashbacks or amnesia, but do sometimes engage in post traumatic play, drawings or verbalizations (e.g., child sees a school shooting and pretends to shoot guns). These children can also experience “time skew” which is a mis-sequencing of trauma-related events. They can also exhibit “omen formation” where they hold a belief that there were warning signs prior to the traumatic event.
Adolescents and Teens:
PTSD symptoms in this age group are more closely aligned with those experienced by adults. As with younger kids, they can also engage in post traumatic dramatizations or re-enactments, and sometimes incorporate aspects of the trauma into their everyday lives. Additionally, they can exhibit impulsive or aggressive behavior.
“Denial is still a huge problem (in families) along with the stigma of living in a toxic home culture,” Steve states. PTSD can go undiagnosed or people choose to turn a blind eye and do not seek treatment which, as Steve experienced growing up, can often lead to child abuse or neglect.
Steve encourages, “We must work harder as parents and as a community to stop child abuse.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Author, retired IT marketing executive, non-profit board consultant and leadership coach, Steve shares his very personal childhood struggles growing up in a post-war PTSD environment in his 5-Star Amazon rated book, ”Reconciliation, A Son’s Story.” Visit Steve’s PTSD blog/forum at www.livingwithptsd-sparkles.blogspot.com.
Working to improve the world one child at a time, Ginger has made it her life mission to raise awareness of the world-wide epidemic of child abuse. An impassioned child advocate, trainer, speaker and child forensic interviewer, Ginger can be contacted via her website “Ginger Kadlec: 4UrKids™” at www.gingerkadlec.com.