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12 March 2004

Most children exposed to traumatic events

In a recent survey 99% of children reported exposure to at least one traumatic event in the previous year. Of these, around 20% developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

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In a recent survey 99% of children reported exposure to at least one traumatic event in the previous year. Of these, around 20% developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The study, conducted by the MRC Unit on Anxiety Disorders, was done at nine Cape schools involving 1 140 children.

The most common traumatic event was the witnessing of violence, followed by robbery and mugging, and witnessing a family member being injured or killed. Other traumatic events included sexual assault (including rape), gang violence and severe bullying. Car accidents, gunfights and other forms of trauma were also common.

As a result of exposure to traumatic events, most adolescents displayed symptoms such as intrusive memories of the event, nightmares, avoiding reminders of the event, and feeling anxious or down.

PTSD was found to be more prevalent among girls, mostly because of sexual molestation or rape. In 85% of the 20% who developed PTSD, sexual molestation, or rape was the trigger.

The MRC Unit on Anxiety Disorders is able to provide information on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. For more information, phone (021) 938-9229 during office hours.

- Ilse Pauw, health24 reporter

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