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Anxiety and Stress Disorders (Children)

Post-Traumatic Stress

06/05/2006

Question:

My son and I were involved in a car accident. We were both o.k. but he saw me being placed on a backbord, and my head immobolized and taken away in an ambulance. His father arrived shorlty after the accident happened, but he saw me crying and upset. Ever since the accident, he has wanted to be near me, sleep in my bed, having nightmares, acting out at school, violently. Which is very uncharacterisitc of him, and acting out at home. Temper tantrums, crying to the point he makes himself sick. Appetite has decreased. Could the trauma of seeing his mother hurt have caused such a reaction, and what do I do?

Answer:

It is not uncommon for children, just like adults, to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder which can manifest itself in much the same manner as you describe.  Frequently nightmares will be about or related to the traumatic event and frequently the fears are about the situation or similar situations, in this case driving.  It appears that whatever occurred, your child's behavior is different and probably needs to be addressed, particularly if it persists for longer than a few weeks. 

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Response by:

Floyd R Sallee, MD
Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati