Development of Functional Symptoms in Children Exposed to Traumatic Events

This chapter will review the typical symptoms occurring in children
after stressful traumatic exposures. Unlike other chapters in this book, no
specific organ system is the most likely focus of functional symptoms in
this setting. Psychological distress may exacerbate symptoms of physical
illness and injury associated with the traumatic events, may be expressed
as almost any seemingly unrelated symptom, may intensify the age appropriate
fears typical of any child, or may predominantly be exhibited behaviorally.
In most nonsevere cases, the impact is self-limited and the
individual’s functioning will be back to normal within days or weeks.
We will suggest simple behavioral and environmental interventions
intended to help relieve children’s distress. However, when large populations
are affected and individuals suffer severe loss such as in a mass
casualty disaster, the scale of events requires community-wide efforts to
meet the needs of children and their families. The fact that some children are
more psychosocially vulnerable than others will be discussed. The chapter
will conclude by highlighting warning signs warranting professional mental
health care.