Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Post traumatic Stress Disorder is a condition from which nearly 10% of Americans suffer. It, unlike other afflictions, is associated with a wide variety of circumstances. Many war veterans suffer from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. However, a new group of people are quickly emerging as common suffers of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder-sexually abused children.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is a prevalent problem associated with children who are victims of sexual assault. Post traumatic Stress Disorder is classified as an anxiety disorder under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders (DSM-III). The diagnoses for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder was not formally diagnosed as part of DSM-III until 1980. According to Famolaro, "the diagnoses of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder requires: (a) experience of a significant traumatic events; (b) re-experiencing of the trauma in one of several different thought, emotional, or behavioral forms; (d) persistent symptoms of increased arousal, Particularly when exposed to stimuli concretely or symbolically reminiscent of the trauma; (e) symptoms lasting at least one month. (Famolaro, Maternal and Child Post traumatic...
28) ." Children are now becoming realized as significant sufferers of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is particularly bad for children under the age of 11, because they lack many of the skills needed to protect themselves. Furthermore, this vulnerability is enhanced when the child is exposed to any maltreatment. According to recent studies, "Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is a common sequel la of severe or chronic maltreatment of children, particularly among sexually maltreated children ( Famolaro, Symptom Differences 28) ." Posttraumatic Stress Disorder can be caused if the child is exposed to just one traumatic episode (rape, witnessing a violent crime, physical abuse); However, the child will become more susceptible to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder if the maltreatment continues. Moreover, a child is most likely to suffer from symptoms associated with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder when sexual assault is involved (28). Because children have not yet developed cognitively emotionally and are very immature, they are likely candidates to develop symptoms related to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
As a child matures he / she becomes better equipped to deal with and prevent contributing factors to the eventual suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Up to age two, young children can recreate stressful events and even imagine such events recurring; However, the mind is not developed enough to identify, anticipate, or prevent future traumatic occurrences. At age three, children cannot, "distance themselves, in time, appreciate roles and differences in behavior, access situation, or adopt non egocentric causality (Sigh 189) ." This flaw opens them up to the impact of trauma because the child cannot anticipate and protect themselves. By age four, children have the ability to protect themselves by avoiding traumatic encounters.
They also have the ability to suppress their anxiety when it becomes difficult to cope with. Because children do not have this ability any earlier they are vulnerable to physical and sexual assault. Children continue as such until they become concrete operational at about age six or seven (190). Children who have been sexually abused develop many of the syndromes associated with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, some of which are, the inability to establish normal relationships with adults and peers, to make a normal transition from adolescence to adulthood, as well as to develop skills required to progress in school. However, this was not the case with all sexually assaulted children. Walker states, "not all those so exposed will develop a Posttraumatic Stress Disorder reaction; some may have a certain "hardiness" that helps them cope without any noticeable residual effects while others may have a severe psychological reaction that renders them unable to function (Walker 130).".