We want to believe the world is safe for our children. And perhaps we wish it had been safe for us. But, sadly, it is not always. Unfortunately, we live in a world where children are often forced to see the worst of humanity. When that happens, a child can become damaged, and this damage can impact them deep into adulthood.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, often simply referred to as PTSD, was first noted in soldiers suffering an emotionally traumatic event during combat. However, we now know that the vast majority of people who suffer from PTSD are not soldiers, and are, in fact, people who contracted the condition sometimes early in childhood following a series of extremely traumatic events. These events left the child feeling vulnerable and helpless, and can manifest in disorganized or agitated actions, loud inappropriate behavior, learning disabilities, and/or poor social skills.

We live in a world where children are often forced to see the worst of humanityCurrently in the United States, it is estimated that 8% of the population suffers from PTSD, but the numbers could be far higher.

For a child, this might include witnessing violent or abusive behavior in adults that include physical, mental, or sexual abuse. Even in situations sometimes deemed “mild,” by adult standards, children can be deeply traumatized. An example would be a couple that is going through a difficult divorce, believes that they have adequately protected their child from any conflict, only to discover the child has been deeply wounded and traumatized by the experience.

I have noticed with increasing alarm over the years an overlap between the over diagnoses of Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder and a refusal to consider PTSD as a diagnoses in children; even though the two conditions, in children, often demonstrate very similar behaviors. This is not to say that ADD and ADHD are not real disorders. Rather, they are real disorders that have been over-diagnosed in children with PTSD.

Why is this happening? Could it be that we simply refuse to believe that the child has been traumatized? Rather then address this real possibility the child is placed on medications and designated “a patient” and a “problem child”. When, in fact, the child may not be the real problem at all, but merely the innocent recipient of an awful situation.

For many adults this is painful to come to terms with; especially when a parent may have to accept the fact that they, or someone they know and trust, has done something abusive to their child, (perhaps even unintentionally) that has caused severe trauma.

Because these unfortunate children are often not properly diagnosed, they can be given the wrong set of medications and never receive the treatment they so desperately deserve. Instead, they are often left feeling ashamed of their behavior—believing that they have done something wrong (which only compounds their distress). This is often the case when the child is repeatedly chastised for his/her behavior and made to feel that they are somehow different or bad; which only reinforces what they may have come to believe about themselves themselves following a trauma or experience of abuse.

They are often left feeling ashamed of their behavior—believing that they have done something wrongIf you suspect your child may have been wrongly diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, instead of PTSD, here are some of the signs and symptoms to look out for and include the following:

-Disturbing and intrusive reoccurring thoughts or dreams of the traumatic event (in children this may express itself in violent or repetitive acts of play where the themes of abuse appear).

-Recurrent nightmares and night terrors (the child may begin to regress, act like a baby, begin bed-wetting, or be afraid to sleep by themselves).

-A Feeling of intense anxiety when placed in certain situation that can trigger memories of the traumatic event. In adults this anxiety can impact our ability to hold down a job, or seek more challenging work opportunities. In children, it can present itself as trouble concentrating in class, learning challenges, or a refusal to go to school.

­- Feeling forced to avoid certain places, people, or situations, because they trigger memories or unpleasant feelings of anxiety or helplessness. If the child is being abused at school he may either try to avoid going all together or seem more detached or disturbed when he returns home.

-A feeling of hopelessness about your future. The child may not want to get out of bed, play with other children, and may withdraw for long periods of time into his own room.

-Sleep disturbances, angry outburst, rages, hyper-vigilance and an exaggerated startle response are not uncommon, and may lead to serious problems at school and social settings.

-Last is dissociation, or a child that seems to “live in his own world,” talks to himself,” or spends hours on activities alone making few if any friends.

If you suspect your child has PTSD seek help with a trained professional. Do not attempt to treat on your own. The professional help you seek should be with a licensed therapist trained to treat trauma in children. If you suspect a child is currently being abused you must report it to the authorities immediately—that is the law. Remember, there is help for people who suffer from PTSD— even in people who have had the condition for years. But research shows that the sooner therapy is sought the more likely a person is to recover. For more about PTSD and treatment please visit the following sites.