Causes under18

Causes of PTSD & C-PTSD in children and young adults

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is condition that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. It’s estimated that around 20% of people who experience a trauma go on to develop PTSD (so around 1 in 10 people at some point in their lives). 

Studies show a prevalence of PTSD in children ranging from around 6-10%, with the most commonly reported traumatic experiences being ‘witnessing injury to or death of others, hearing news of other’s sudden death or accident, and personally experiencing a sudden injury or accident’.

The defining characteristic of a traumatic event is its capacity to cause fear, helplessness, or horror as a response to the threat of injury or death, and therefore can affect anyone. Some examples of traumatic events include (please note this list is NOT exhaustive):

What causes PTSD?

PTSD is essentially a memory filing error caused by a traumatic event. When you experience something really traumatic your body suspends ‘normal operations’ and so temporarily shuts down some bodily functions such as digestion, skin repair and crucially, memory processing.

During trauma, your brain thinks ‘processing and understanding what is going on right now is not important! Getting your legs ready to run, your heart rate up, and your arms ready to fight this danger is what’s important right now, I’ll get back to the processing later.’

As such, until the danger passes, the mind does not produce a memory for this traumatic event in the normal way. So, when your brain eventually does go back to try to process the trauma, and the mind presents the situation as a memory for filing, if finds it ‘does not exist’ in your memory yet, so it sees it as a situation in the current timeline, and so it can be very distressing.

The distress comes from the fact that the brain is unable to recognise this as a ‘memory’, because it hasn’t been processed as one. As such, the facts of what happened, the emotions associated with the trauma and the sensations touch, taste, sound, vision, movement, and smell can be presented by the mind in the form of flashbacks – as if they are happening right now. The distress during the traumatic event, and this continued distress is what causes that changes in the brain, and the subsequent symptoms of PTSD. 

Complex PTSD

There is a second, subtype of PTSD, called Complex PTSD, or C-PTSD. This is usually a result of repeated, or sustained traumas, and presents in a similar way to PTSD, but with some additional symptoms too. Any of the causes noted above (and many others) can cause C-PTSD if they have been experienced repeatedly, or if someone has experience a number of different traumas.  You can find out more about C-PTSD in children and young adults specifically here.

 

 

Sources
    •  
    • Why is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder so topical?
    • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

    • Sayed, S., Iacoviello, B.M. & Charney, D.S. Risk Factors for the Development of Psychopathology Following Trauma. Curr Psychiatry Rep 17, 70 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-015-0612-y
    • Sareen J. (2014). Posttraumatic stress disorder in adults: impact, comorbidity, risk factors, and treatment. Canadian journal of psychiatry. Revue canadienne de psychiatrie59(9), 460–467. https://doi.org/10.1177/070674371405900902

Symptoms of PTSD in children

Treatments for PTSD in children

Hello! Did you find this information useful?

Please consider supporting PTSD UK with a donation to enable us to provide more information & resources to help us to support everyone affected by PTSD, no matter the trauma that caused it

PTSD UK Blog

You’ll find up-to-date news, research and information here along with some great tips to ease your PTSD in our blog.

Thrift+

Declutter with Purpose with Thrift+ Are you ready to make a meaningful difference while giving your wardrobe a fresh start? Look no further than Thrift+ a platform that transforms the act of decluttering into an opportunity for positive change. With

Read More »

Arise – Rai Reid

Arise: Guest Blog from Rai Reid We’ve been proudly working with Rai Reid over the last year and in this inspiring guest blog post for PTSD UK, she shares her personal journey of healing from Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Read More »

TRF scholarship

PTSD UK Founder Awarded Scholarship for prestigious Traumatic Stress Studies Program PTSD UK is proud to announce that its Founder and CEO, Jacqui, has been awarded a scholarship for the prestigious Traumatic Stress Studies Certificate Program offered by the renowned

Read More »

Navigating Trauma

Navigating Trauma and Boundaries with Respect In every walk of life, it’s important to recognise and celebrate the uniqueness of people. People have different preferences, likes, and dislikes. They react to situations in their own ways, and it’s no different

Read More »

untold konan

Untold: Konan – Trapped in Trauma Sheds Light on Rising PTSD Cases among Young People PTSD UK were delighted to assist in the creation of a deeply moving Channel 4 documentary titled ‘Untold: Konan – Trapped in Trauma,’ where rapper

Read More »

UNICEF open letter

Thousands urge Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for better support for babies, young children, and parents. Today more than 80 leading charities including PTSD UK, NSPCC, and Save the Children UK, experts in early childhood development, and UNICEF Ambassadors and high

Read More »

PTSD UK Supporters Store

100% of the profits from everything in our online Supporters Store goes directly to our mission – to help everyone affected by PTSD in the UK, no matter the trauma that caused it.

Treatments for PTSD

It is possible for PTSD to be successfully treated many years after the traumatic event occurred, which means it is never too late to seek help. For some, the first step may be watchful waiting, then exploring therapeutic options such as individual or group therapy – but the main treatment options in the UK are psychological treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Traumatic events can be very difficult to come to terms with, but confronting and understanding your feelings and seeking professional help is often the only way of effectively treating PTSD. You can find out more in the links below, or here.