Study: Kids get PTSD from terror reports

British health officials say children who saw recent terrorist attacks on social media could suffer post-traumatic stress as a result. Around one in five of the people directly caught in up in the attacks are expected to get help from the National Health Service.  But thousands more, including kids, who watched the violence on social media could also suffer trauma.

Laurence Abrams, clinical psychologist, is skeptical of these claims. He says it’s unlikely anybody could come down with PTSD by proxy.  “They could be scared of being in a similar situation, but they wouldn’t have had it happen to them,” he says.  “So they’re not really traumatized.”

Abrams says children with a nervous temperament could have trouble coping with disturbing things they see on social media.  “They might have bad dreams, they might have bad thoughts, they might be scared and tearful and crying,” he notes.  “But it wouldn’t specifically be post-traumatic stress syndrome unless they were there.”

Abrams acknowledges that the symptoms experienced by someone who’s seen something, as opposed to having experienced it, could approximate those of PTSD.  “It’s possible to some degree, but it’s more likely to just be fearful and terrorized for a while and it feels like a bad dream,” he says.  “Like having watched a bad movie.  I mean, Jaws gave one of my kids trauma for a long time.”

Still, he says, it’s not the same thing.  “No trauma happened, so they’re having to imagine the whole thing.  And they might do that,” he observes.  “Somebody who’s nervous might decide to worry themselves to death about it.  But they wouldn’t have flashbacks, they wouldn’t have things like that.”  He says that kids who have trouble handling what they see on social media might want to try a new definition of PTSD: Put That Smartphone Down.

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