Sometimes, bullying can be short-term and doesn’t lead to severe trauma. However, long-term bullying is a complex issue that often goes overlooked, and it can lead to major trauma symptoms.
It’s important to be aware of bullying and how it can cause children to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
What Is PTSD?
According to the Mayo Clinic: “Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event—either experiencing it or witnessing it.” This is especially so if the incident caused intense feelings of fear and helplessness.
PTSD can affect anyone, and children can be particularly susceptible. Because children are still developing mentally and emotionally, bullying can seriously affect both the way they view themselves and others. When a child is constantly put down every day for weeks, months, or possibly years about their looks, personality, intelligence, weight, etc., it seriously damages their sense of self-worth and causes them to develop severe anxiety.
Long-term, the trauma this creates can stay with them well into their adulthood and even lead to PTSD.
What Are the Signs of PTSD in Children?
If you suspect that your child may be the victim of bullying that has caused PTSD, look out for warning signs.
Common signs may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Drug use/abuse
The American Psychiatric Association also notes some more general symptoms of PTSD:
- Intrusive thoughts (flashbacks of the incident that cause acute anxiety)
- Avoiding reminders (your child may begin avoiding certain situations that remind them of their trauma)
- Negative thoughts or feelings (this is especially true for victims of long-term bullying; they’re left with incredibly negative thoughts about themselves and their self-worth)
- Arousal and reactive symptoms (your child may have sudden outbursts of anger or emotion, and may startle easily)
Children aren’t necessarily able to fully understand their emotions or even realize that they’re experiencing PTSD. Because of this, it’s important that you consistently monitor your child’s behavior. Reach out if you’re worried that they may be suffering from post-traumatic symptoms.
How Can Parents Help Their Children Combat Bullying and PTSD?
As a parent, you want to prepare your child for even the worst of situations. First and foremost, it’s important to be mindful of bullying even before it ever begins. Talk to your child about that other kids may try to bully them and what to look out for. It’s also important to remind your child to always come to you when problems arise and to try to respond to the bully as little as possible.
Furthermore, help your child to see that it’s the bully who has a problem, not the victim. Teach them how to appropriately respond to a bully (if a response is absolutely necessary). And try to ensure that your child has allies who will stick up for them if bullying occurs.
The more you and your child can combat a bully, the less likely the bullying will be long-term or result in complex trauma or PTSD.
Always Be Proactive When It Comes to Bullying
The most important thing to remember is that bullying can escalate quickly. You should never assume that the bully will eventually loosen up, or that your child will be able to get over it on their own. Bullying is a serious issue, and it’s best to help your child before it can lead to PTSD. Therefore, it’s crucial that you do everything in your power to combat your child being bullied.
If your child exhibits symptoms of PTSD, monitor your child, initiate conversations about bullying, and seek out a therapist who specializes in treating these types of traumas. The longer you wait, the more your child may suffer.
For more information on PTSD in children, I invite you to contact us. It would be our pleasure to help your child overcome their trauma and help them find peace of mind again.