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Crisis or Trauma Reactions

Crisis reactions will differ depending on developmental level and are generally marked by changes in typical behavior for the specific child or adolescent. Some specific reactions that may signal the need for additional support and assistance include:

  • Preschoolers—thumb sucking, bedwetting, clinging to parents, sleep disturbances, loss of appetite, fear of the dark, behavioral regression, and withdrawal from friends and routines.
  • Elementary School Children—irritability, aggressiveness, clinginess, nightmares, school avoidance, poor concentration, behavioral regression, and withdrawal from activities and friends.
  • Middle and High School Youth—sleeping and eating disturbances, agitation, increase in conflicts, physical complaints, delinquent behavior, and poor concentration.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

A minority of students may even be at risk for PTSD. This will primarily include children who lost significant family members or who have witnessed or experienced a severe trauma. In addition to the reactions mentioned above, symptoms of PTSD include:

  • reexperiencing the traumatizing circumstances (which can include being notified of the death of a loved one and seeing caregivers in extreme emotional pain);
  • anticipating that the earthquake is happening again;
  • avoiding reminders of the earthquake; general numbness to emotional topics; and
  • increased arousal symptoms, such as inability to concentrate and startle reactions.

Although rare, some adolescents may also be at increased risk of suicide if they suffer from serious mental health problems like PTSD or depression. Seek mental health support for children or adolescents exhibiting these symptoms.