At some point, most people have had a stressful life event. When the stressful event causes significant distress, it is called a traumatic event.  Trauma can happen at any age impacting children, adolescents, and adults. Traumatic events are marked by a sense of fear, terror, helplessness, serious injury, or the threat of serious injury. Individual responses to a traumatic event vary and may include feelings of fear, sadness, and decline in daily functioning.

If symptoms associated with the trauma continue to worsen or last longer than one month after the event, a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be warranted. PTSD is an intense physical, behavioral, and emotional response to thoughts and reminders of the traumatic event.

A significant number of children and adolescents are exposed to traumatic life events. Similar to adults, children and adolescents vary in their response to traumatic incidents. These responses may be influenced by developmental and cultural factors, previous trauma exposure, family problems, and coping skills. Most children experience behavior changes after exposure to a traumatic event. These changes may include:

  • separation anxiety
  • loss of interest in normal activities
  • development of new fears
  • sleep disturbances such as nightmares
  • sadness
  • irritability
  • concentration difficulties
  • academic problems
  • anger
  • somatic complaints such as stomachache or headache

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has shown to be effective in treating children, adolescents, and adults experiencing trauma reactions. CBT has been effective in reducing serious trauma reactions, such as PTSD, anxiety and depressive symptoms, and behavioral problems. CBT can assist children, adolescents, and adults with adopting a more adaptive understanding of the trauma experience and restructuring cognitive distortions related to the trauma.

A collaboration between the psychologist and patient helps identify the most appropriate therapeutic method and treatment plan for an individual with a trauma-related disorder.  An understanding of the individual’s cognitive, social, developmental, and emotional functioning, along with family dynamics and coping skills helps identity the most optimal treatment approach for trauma-related disorders.

SageForth Psychological Services is here to help.  Contact us at 703-777-7755 for a consultation.