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CAN CHILDREN HAVE PTSD FROM ABUSE?

9 May, 2014

I have noted that, from search terms which have generated hits on this blog, some have sought information about the possibility of PTSD hallucinations in children as a result of sexual abuse.

First, a caveat: In my work with survivors I never had the opportunity to assess or work with children. What I know comes from adult survivors and their memories of symptoms.

Adult survivors pretty universally remember PTSD symptoms (see all the rest of the posts) beginning with the onset of abuse and I have no reason to doubt that their symptoms began early on. The cognitive development required for hallucinations, for instance, would have been there. It has been speculated by analytic folk that infants may hallucinate frequently since the brain’s capacity for that actually precedes the psychological development needed to distinguish reality from internal events.

The above being the case, I’ll readily go out on a limb and say that yes; children can and probably do have the same symptoms as adult survivors. There has been considerable research springing from my original papers but I’m unaware of anyone doing any research about the prevalence in child victims of the syndrome I described. Please leave feedback if you are either aware of any such research or you yourself recall early onset of the symptoms described in this blog.

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6 Comments
  1. I do remember beginning to experience night terrors at age two, and I have a sense that I was experiencing hallucinations during the night terrors, but those memories are very shadowed. Age five or six is the earliest age that I remember the hallucinations being very distinct.

    • Thanks for the confirmation, Elizabeth, and thanks again for being willing to share your experience. Overcoming abuse that starts that early is especially difficult. There should be medals for courage such as yours.

  2. I began to be abused when I was around two years old, and I can clearly beginning to experience hallucinations when I was around five or six years old.

    • My only surprise is that the hallucinations didn’t start at two. Then again, few people have clear memories of that age.* Thank you so much for sharing. That’s pretty much what all the survivors of whom I asked that question said. Godspeed in your healing.

      * I have some clear memories dating back to age 2 or so though they had nothing to do with abuse and were due to a different dynamic. Memories from Freud’s “oedipal” stage, it has been said, are usually suppressed but my father was away at WWII. To clinch the theory, my memories for a period of time after he returned were suppressed.

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