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Following a traumatic experience, many children might show stress- or trauma-related symptoms. But stress symptoms are not the same thing as having PTSD. In order to qualify for a PTSD diagnosis, a child must fit the following criteria:

A) The child has endured a life-threatening or seriously distressing event, and their experience of this event included feelings of intense helplessness or horror.

B) The child repeatedly re-lives the traumatic event, as evidenced by 1 or more of the following symptoms:

  • Recurrent & intensive recollections of the event
  • Recurrent nightmares or distressing dreams
  • Acting or feeling as though the event is likely to recur
  • Flashbacks or distressing intrusive memories of the event, which may or may not be triggered by cues in the environment.

C) Persistent avoidance of stimulus associated with the event, as evidenced by 1 or both of the following:

  1. Efforts to avoid people, places or things associated with the trauma.
  2. Efforts to avoid thoughts or feelings regarding the experience.

D) The child exhibits a psychological reaction to the trauma that is disrupting their ability to function, as evidenced by the presence of 1 or more of the following symptoms:

  • Intense psychological distress
  • Reckless or self-destructive behavior
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Markedly diminished participation in everyday life
  • Seeming detached or disengaged from the world
  • Perceptions of a dreaded future (as if life can never be the same)
  • Disassociation

E) Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (not present before the trauma), which can be indicated by 2 or more of the following:

  • Outbursts of anger, or inability to control anger
  • Hypervigilance
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep

The child should display these disturbances for at least one month. The condition is acute when the duration of symptoms is up to three months. And it is considered chronic when it lasts for more than three months.

The child might also display feelings of detachment from others, have trouble displaying love toward other, or have diminished interest or participation in significant activities.

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