PTSD | Part 3 | Challenges

This is the third and final article in exploring the causes and challenges of PTSD. You can read the introductory article here and the article on how the brain influences PTSD here.


Types Of PTSD Challenges

Based on what we have seen, we want to share the top three challenges we have noticed in working with several students struggling with PTSD.

1) Hypervigilance

Hypervigilance is characterized by a heightened alertness of your surroundings. Often, this is paired with body rigidity and engaging in peripheral eye contact. Over-activation of the peripheral cells of the eye indicates a child’s propensity to process visual information through the perception of potential danger and may correlate to increased anxiety and engagement in a fight or flight response. Along with this hypervigilance, the Autonomic Nervous System is engaged to be aroused and endure situations perceived as unsafe. When this happens, a child will be primed to respond through fighting, flight, freezing, or even through submission, which is a learned helplessness due to longer-term patterns of trauma. If a child is in this constant state of vigilance, along with responding in this primitive manner, then his or her availability to be fully present and “at choice” in the moment is extremely limited. Additionally, with this mindset, a child is likely to be constantly anxious, waiting for danger to occur. Studies have shown time and again, that trauma, and especially prolonged trauma, have a lasting effect on the brain and brain development in younger children. Most often the events, often referred to as ELA—Early life adversitiy—lead to neural adaptations that enhance the “threat detectors” in the brain. But the enhancement often comes at the expense of the systems ability to be sensitive to the true nature of threat, meaning is it real or just perceived. This hypervigilance will then set off many “false alarms”.

2) Irritability

Though occasional irritability is a natural part of life, when this becomes a frequent interference in your child’s ability to function in a healthy and productive way, your child suffers. This irritability looks like a “short fuse”- becoming frustrated or upset easily- and is indicative of low distress tolerance, which is described as an individual's ability to manage their internal emotional state in response to stress-inducing factors. Often triggers to this include a situation not going as expected, feeling misunderstood, and perceived difficulty level of task. A high degree of emotional reactivity is a common symptom of someone who has endured trauma. While an individual does not purposefully react with a short fuse and a high degree of irritability , the common effects of trauma on the brain would greatly contribute to this overriding sense of irritability, and overall maladaptive response.

3) Dissociative Behavior

Dissociation is depersonalization or derealization during an event and is a self-protective survival technique for individuals with a history of trauma. When a child experiences a trigger that sends them back into the memory or feeling of the trauma, then he or she may continue this dissociative behavior even outside of the direct trauma. This dissociation can lead to a physical detachment from their body, an emotional detachment, a lack of sense of self, heightened anxiety, depression, or even self-harm. Therefore, it is important to work with the child to learn more adapt coping techniques, which will ultimately make them more present-minded, as they are able to feel safe and secure.


How To Help Your Child

1) Sign Up For A Free Course

Based on our experience of helping hundreds of students overcome their behavioral challenges, we created video courses around the challenges we typical see and strategies that help. Click here to view the courses.

2) Explore The Hope School Programs

We offer a variety of programming for students struggling with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges including:

  • On campus

  • In school support

  • Virtually support

  • In home support

To explore our program offerings, click here.

3) Contact The Hope School

Contact us to discuss your child's needs and how The Hope School can help your student overcome their behavioral challenges.

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