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Car Crashes: A Source of PTSD in Children

You have probably heard about post traumatic stress disorder affecting veterans who have served in war, but did you realize that children can also suffer from PTSD? After a serious car crash, it’s quite common for the vehicle’s occupants to be shaken. However, adults are better equipped to deal with the aftermath of a collision than children. To a child’s perspective, screeching tires, followed by a loud crash can be scary. Afterwards, their torment can grow as emergency responders come rushing in to assist the victims, using loud sirens, flashing lights, with images of broken glass, and the unfamiliar smell of deployed airbags. It is a lot for children to take in, and sometimes the experience can be overwhelming, especially if they themselves or a loved one are hurt in the car accident. As a consequence, they can develop PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD in Children

You should be familiar with the symptoms of PTSD in children so you can recognize early warning signs before they become unmanageable problems. PTSD is a mental response to a traumatic event, where their brains overreact to perceived threats that remind them of the accident. Depending on your child’s age and maturity, the symptoms of PTSD can vary greatly. However, young children tend to be affected the most.

You may notice young children expressing a greater fear of the dark, frequent nightmares, or even anxiousness at being left alone. Some children begin to wet the bed again. They may not want to get in the car when it is time to leave, and they may have more mood swings or outbursts of anger. Older children may start to struggle in school, exhibit signs of depression, or become more anxious in general. In some cases, the child may decide they do not want to drive when they reach the appropriate age, and act uncomfortable every time they are riding in a vehicle.

Treatment Options

If you suspect your child is suffering from PTSD, it is important that you seek help immediately. The sooner this condition is treated, the more likely they are to fully recover, and experts have developed incredibly effective treatment plans to help children overcome this disorder.

Regardless of their age, several different methods can be used to treat PTSD that range from discussing the accident with a therapist to taking medications. Young children may benefit from a treatment option called Play Therapy. A professional therapist who specializes in early child development will use games, drawings, and other fun things to help the child develop a new understanding of the accident. The goal is to guide the child towards better thoughts and help them cope with the negative experience.

Older children are much more likely to benefit from open discussions with a therapist who can help them deal with their anguish. Traumatic events, like a serious car collision, can evoke a natural response deep in the brain, and children tend to have quicker results when they hear a trusted third-party explain the situation.