Tuesday, February 5, 2008

When It Comes To Trauma Caused By 9/11, Some Children Are More Vulnerable Than Others

Remember back when 9/11 occurred? Scores of people witnessed the attack on the Twin Towers, whether they saw it in person, or watched it over and over again on television. Among the people witnessing this disaster were children. At the time, many parents and professionals worried that being exposed to this horrible event would cause children to grow up with psychological problems.
A recent study shows that, at least when it comes to long-term trauma, some children are more vulnerable than others. Just about every child who saw the footage on TV, saw the wreckage afterwards, or even was present at the time of the attack, experienced some degree of trauma or anxiety. But, by three years later, most of these children didn't seem to have much lingering trauma. Symptoms of trauma would have included trouble sleeping, anxiety and depression, behavior problems, attention problems, etc.
However, the children who did seem to suffer long-term effects after 9/11 were children who had previously gone through another traumatizing experience. For instance, children who had been bitten by a dog, seen a parent become seriously ill, been through a natural disaster, etc. Children who had gone through a traumatizing experience before 9/11 were twenty times more likely to suffer long-term effects after 9/11, than children who had not had any prior traumatizing experiences.
This may seem obvious to any adult who has gone through more than one traumatizing experience. When put through very stressful events, the nervous system takes a beating. The first event is hard to deal with, but afterwards every additional stressful experience becomes harder and harder to deal with. For children, whose nervous systems are still developing, this phenomena is even more dramatic.
For children who are still experiencing the effects of trauma, even years after the event has happened, it is important that they still receive therapy and support.
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