Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Babies and Toddlers: What Are the Symptoms?

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in babies and toddlers are different than those of adults. This post describes 7 signs of PTSD in young kids.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a reality for many babies and toddlers with special needs. That’s the bad news. The good news is that effective treatments for PTSD exist, and they can be used with children as young as three. Before effective treatment can occur, the condition must first be correctly diagnosed. And for diagnosis to occur parents and health care professionals must be aware of the symptoms of PTSD.

Behavior Reveals Symptoms of PTSD in Babies and Toddlers

PTSD symptoms manifest much differently in babies and toddlers than in older children, adolescents, and adults. Because babies are preverbal and toddlers’ language development is limited, they can’t verbalize their fears. They can’t describe a nightmare or flashback. But the behaviors of infants and toddlers who have experienced significant trauma can offer clues that indicate the development of PTSD. By closely observing their behaviors, caring adults may notice symptoms related to PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD in Babies and Toddlers

What are some of the behavioral symptoms to look for?

1. Hypervigilance

A baby who is tense, watchful, or on guard even when in a familiar, comfortable, and safe environment is hypervigilant. Adults often consider the behavior to be part of the child’s personality. “He’s an anxious child,” we say. Or, “She’s a worrier.” But the behavior could be a symptom of PTSD.

2. Separation Anxiety or Clinginess

Most babies go through a clingy period between the ages of 6 and 12 months. But when a baby is clingy from a much earlier age and whose separation anxiety persists into toddlerhood, the behavior may indicate the development of PTSD.

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Meet Jolene

Jolene Philo is a published author, speaker, wife, and mother of a son with special needs.



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