Studies show that up to 43% of children and teens go through at least one trauma, but not all develop PTSD. Between 3% and 15% of girls and 1% and 6% of boys will develop PTSD. Car accidents can be a very traumatic event, especially for a child who may never have considered it a possibility. The sounds of a car crashing, flashing blue lights, being surrounded by lots of people, and witnessing loved ones sustain injuries can be very overwhelming for a child. Recognizing the signs of PTSD in children is essential for getting them treatment.
What is PTSD?
PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder and is a mental health condition that develops after someone has been exposed to trauma, such as a car accident. Symptoms can develop immediately after the trauma, months later, and, in some cases, years after the event. Symptoms vary significantly, particularly in children, and can depend on their age, maturity, and the extent of their trauma. PTSD can drastically impact a child’s life, and the longer it’s left untreated, the bigger the effect it will have. This can be in the form of developing unhealthy coping mechanisms, developing other mental illnesses (such as depression), and behaving in ways that are considered anti-social or rebellious.
Signs of PTSD in children
Symptoms of PTSD in children differ from those seen in adults to a certain extent, as they express themselves in different ways and are less able to understand and rationalize their situation. Symptoms of PTSD in very young children following a car accident include bedwetting, a fear of the dark, and separation anxiety. Elementary-aged children may have outbursts of anger, nightmares, headaches, difficulty sleeping, and changes in their school and social life. Pre-teens and teens can also have difficulty sleeping and a poor school performance, along with anxiety, depression, alcohol use, and other self-defeating or harmful behaviors. Some obvious symptoms for all ages can be a fear of getting back into a car, avoiding the scene of the accident, and a fear of learning to drive as they get older.
As a parent, if you notice the symptoms of PTSD in your child or teen after a car crash, it’s important to talk to them and get them professional help. Remember that PTSD can develop months or years later, so it’s important to consider whether there’s a link between a teen’s low mood or poor school performance and a car accident that happened to them as a child. The good news is that PTSD is treatable. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talking therapy that allows people to freely discuss their experience and be taught healthy ways to cope with it. Play therapy can also be good for children, as it helps them to express themselves without having to directly talk to a therapist, which can be difficult when children don’t always know what’s wrong. Medication is also an option, but it treats the symptoms of PTSD, rather than the PTSD itself, so it’s best used as a last resort.
The cost of treatment
Unfortunately, the cost of medical care and therapy for treating PTSD following a car accident can be expensive and the last thing any parent wants to worry about when trying to help their child. Children may be eligible for monetary compensation for both PTSD and any physical injuries they sustain from the car accident. FVF Law Firm advise seeking out free, no-pressure consultations so that you can get compensation for your child, which can be essential for covering the costs involved in treatment. Even if months or years have passed since the accident before PTSD has been diagnosed, it’s still worth pursuing it to see what can be done.
PTSD is something that every parent should be aware of if their child has been in a car accident. It’s important to have open communication so that they can come to you if something is wrong, but many children will depend on their parents to guide them in the right direction for help.