PTSD From Bullying: Signs & Treatment

An individual who has witnessed or experienced a serious traumatic event, or a succession of traumatic events over time, can be affected by PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). They may feel constant fear, anxiety, and emotional agony long after an incident has occurred. PTSD in children that are bullied develops from a systematic type of abuse from peers that also occurs online.

What Is PTSD?

A psychological response to experiencing or seeing a painful or terrifying event or set of events is known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD from bullying, abuse, combat, a car accident, or any situation where there was a risk of you, or others being killed or seriously injured can have long-lasting effects on mental health. PTSD can occur from one event or from persistent traumatic experiences.

The effects of PTSD can be alienating, and crippling. People can experience panic attacks, and develop addiction issues, disrupted eating and sleeping habits, and feel intense feelings of rage and sadness. In extreme situations, some people choose to harm themselves or others.

What Are The Signs Of PTSD In Children?

Children who experience or witness extremely stressful situations will be affected in their thinking, emotions, and behavior. Children may display the following signs if they are experiencing ongoing distress from a specific situation or event.

  • Insomnia
  • Depression or moodiness
  • Being hypervigilant
  • Loss of interest in socializing and activities
  • Being aggressive and angry
  • Lacks positive emotions
  • Behaving in a helpless or hopeless way
  • Avoiding people, places, or things that trigger stressful memories
  • Decreased interest and effort in schoolwork
  • Developing age-inappropriate habits like bedwetting or thumb sucking
  • Increased complaints about physical

What Are The Causes Of PTSD In Children?

Something that happens to the child or is witnessed by the child that is upsetting, either physically or emotionally, can result in PTSD.

Abuse

A kid may experience trauma from any form of abuse victimization, including physical, sexual, emotional, and behavioral abuse. This includes mistreatment of children by adults or their peers.

Neglect

PTSD is more likely to occur among children who have experienced parental neglect. The child’s family, personality, and lifestyle might also put them at risk and exacerbate their PTSD symptoms.

Violence

Children exposed to violence, aggressive acts, and physical threats are known to develop PTSD. This can be from gang violence, school shootings, and witnessing a violent act on a loved one or stranger.

Life-Changing Events

Divorce, separation, acrimonious custody battles, the death of a family member, moving to a new school or town, or going through an adoption are significant life events that can cause PTSD.

Disasters and Accidents

Any natural disaster, conflict, frightening event, or severe accident that a child goes through can have devastating effects. Tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, or a house fire can be traumatic especially if the child loses a family member during the event.

Can Bullying Cause PTSD?

Bullying is not purely a childhood trauma or a passing phase. Research shows experiencing bullying and harassment is one of the strongest predictors of developing PTSD symptoms.

Emotional Impact

When a person is continually bullied or harassed, they begin to experience negative reinforcement, abuse of power, and ongoing emotional pain. And those who are bullied as kids tend to have a greater risk of being bullied in their adult lives. The characteristic symptoms of childhood bullying and PTSD are strongly correlated, making it more likely that a victim of bullying will develop the disorder.

Mental Impact

Persistently experiencing a past traumatic event means having nightmares or flashbacks associated with the bullying. Memories flood the person’s mind at inconvenient times and are distressing. Regardless of whether the threat they experience is real or perceived, the person has a recurring feeling of being unsafe and vulnerable.

Are There Any Treatment Options? 

It is never too late to get help in treating PTSD, even if the events occurred years ago. Common therapeutic techniques may include talk therapies, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, medication management, holistic non-pharmacological therapies, and lifestyle changes.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This helps in pinpointing the reasons that cause the symptoms. Patients get knowledge on how to alter their negative thought patterns, deal with fear, shame, and blame sentiments, and employ healthy relaxation and coping mechanisms.

Psychotherapy

Individual and/or group psychotherapy (depending on age), helps bullying victims with PTSD feel better about themselves and focus on their well-being. A person’s confidence can be seriously damaged by bullying and harassment, so it’s crucial to learn the right strategies for reestablishing a good self-image.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)

EMDR is a controlled, safe recall of trauma to activate the brain. This approach helps the person reduce their reactions and anxiety when experiencing painful memories.

Medication

Medications such as antidepressants can assist in managing and controlling PTSD symptoms including depression or anger. If there is a co-occurring issue with substance abuse, finding a clinician with experience and training in treating both trauma and addiction is crucial.

How Can Parents Help A Child Combat Bullying Or Prevent It?

As a parent, it is important to stay involved with your child as they grow into teenagers. By keeping communication channels open, parents may be able to spot the early warning signs of bullying and intervene to protect their children. There are proven strategies that parents could consider for preventing and helping their children cope with bullying.

  • Parenting practices may make a difference in whether children become the bully or the bullied. Warmth, love, and closeness, and at the same time providing clear limits and healthy boundaries help to nurture confident and kind individuals in a positive family climate.
  • Provide a sense of belonging in the family and cultivate strong family ties and open discussions. Family life should feel organized and stable instead of chaotic and unpredictable.
  • Impart interpersonal and emotional skills. Children who grow up in an emotionally rich environment that feels safe and free to discuss emotions are better equipped at navigating their peer groups and are more inclined to defend those who are being bullied by others.
  • Recognize the symptoms and then find out what is going on by openly and gently asking questions that will encourage your child to talk about their issues.
  • Get help from a trained mental health professional who can offer therapy to help your child and offer the necessary family support.

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