Monday, April 12, 1999

Symptoms of trauma




        Mental health experts from the Cincinnati chapter of the American Red Cross warn that victims and witnesses of the tornado should be alert to symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

        Children need special attention in the wake of such a disaster, Red Cross officials say.

        Individuals vary in how they react to disasters, but there is a natural grieving process. If that process should be accompanied by some of the following symptoms, professional counseling should be sought.

        What to look for:
        Changes in appetite and digestive problems.
        • Difficulty in sleeping and headaches.
        • Anger and suspicion.
        • Crying for no apparent reason.
        • Increased effects of allergies, colds and flu.
        • Feelings of being overwhelmed.
        • Moodiness and irritability.
        • Anxiety about the future.
        • Disappointment with and rejection of outside help.
        • Isolating oneself from family, friends or social activities.
        • Guilt over not being able to prevent the disaster.
        • Domestic violence.

        Warning signs that children could be suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder:
        A return to an earlier behavior, such as thumb-sucking.
        • Clinging to parents.
        • Reluctance to go to bed.
        • Nightmares.
        • Crying and screaming.
        • Withdrawal and immobility.
        • Refusal to attend school.
        • Problems at school and inability to concentrate.

        Tending to children's emotional needs:
        Let them talk about their feelings. Encourage them to draw pictures of the disaster. This will help you understand how they view what happened.
        • Reassure them — repeatedly if necessary — that they are safe.
        • Review safety procedures that are in place and include a role for the kids.
        • Hold them. Touching provides extra reassurance that someone is there for them.
        • Spend extra time with them, especially at bedtime.
        • Work closely with teachers and others who may not understand how the disaster has affected your children.

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- Symptoms of trauma
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