Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic or life-threatening event. Examples of traumatic events includes, but are not limited to, physical abuse, sexual abuse, vehicular accidents, bombings, and natural disasters. Not every child who experiences or witnesses traumatic events will develop PTSD. Following traumatic events, it is normal to feel fearful, sad, or nervous. Although many children with recover from these feelings in a short time, these feelings persist for other children who may develop PTSD. PTSD is characterized by re-experiencing the trauma through flashbacks or nightmares, emotional numbness or avoidance of people, places, or activities that remind one of the trauma, and increased arousal or hypervigilance. These symptoms persist for at least one month. Although these symptoms usually develop within three months of the traumatic event, they may not appear until several months or even years after the traumatic event. For some youth, PTSD can become chronic.

Children who appear most at risk for PTSD are females, those who directly witnessed the traumatic event or were in greater proximity to trauma, those who suffered directly, those exposed to traumas with higher death tools, youth with high perceived threat, youth without strong social support networks, and youth who experienced greater amounts of distress at the time of the trauma.



  • Furr, J. M., Comer, J. S., Edmunds, J. M., & Kendall, P. C. (2010). Disasters and youth: A meta-analytic examination of posttraumatic stress. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78, 765-780.
  • La Greca, A. M., Silverman, W. K., & Wasserstein, S. B. (1998). Children’s predisaster functioning as a predictor of posttraumatic stress following Hurricane Andrew. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66, 883-892.
  • Perrin, S., Smith, P., & Yule, W. (2000). Practitioner review: The assessment and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder in children and adolescents. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 41, 277-289.



Post-Traumatic stress disorder is characterized by three main types of symptoms:

  • Re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive distressing recollections of the event, flashbacks, and nightmares.
  • Emotional numbness and avoidance of places, people, and activities that are reminders of the trauma.
  • Increased arousal such as difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and being easily irritated and angered.

PTSD is diagnosed after a person experiences symptoms for at least one month following a traumatic event. However symptoms may not appear until several months or even years later.


Coping Cat Parents was developed to serve as a comprehensive and evidence-based resource on child and adolescent anxiety. Here you will get only information backed by research and tips and strategies that have evidence to support their use. We have brought together relevant resources, tools, and tips from the experts in the field that will be informative, and help you feel confident as you move forward in helping your child. Click on any of the links below to learn more:

Symptom Checker

If you’re not sure where to start, take a moment to complete our “Symptom Checker”. Our symptom checker allows you to click on the symptoms that are consistent with what you’re seeing in your child and provides personalized feedback on your child’s symptom status and recommendations for next steps.

By answering a few short questions, you will get some feedback about which categories to learn more about next.

Use the Symptom Checker

Child Anxiety Tales

The Child Anxiety Tales program is an online parent-training program designed to equip parents with skills and strategies they’ll need to help their children better manage anxiety. The program is based on the latest evidence in the treatment of child anxiety and on cognitive-behavioral principals shown to be effective in helping anxious youth. Child Anxiety Tales is an interactive and engaging program that can be completed at your own pace from the privacy and convenience of your own computer. It is not a treatment but an online educational program for parents.
Click below to view a demo or to learn more: