USA Today~ Five weeks removed from the storm, medical professionals anticipate an increase in children and teens displaying signs of post-traumatic stress disorder or other anxiety disorders due to the storm.
|Photo by Alison De La Cruz|
Weather was becoming life-or-death for 11-year-old Dylan DeMatteo. Long before bad storms with pleasant-sounding names like Sandy or Irene hit the Jersey Shore, DeMatteo was cowering from windows or walking head-down in the wind.
The symptoms started subtly in the third grade, but by the fourth grade, they escalated to dry heaves, hives and heavy sweating.
"What you and I would consider a beautiful breezy day petrified Dylan. He would see the trees blowing and he would be afraid they were going to crash down," said his mother, Kelley DeMatteo, 43. "He spent a whole summer when he refused to leave the house because he was in fear."
Now, as a result of Sandy, other children may be heading that way.
Five weeks removed from the storm, medical professionals anticipate an increase in children and teens displaying signs of post-traumatic stress disorder or other anxiety disorders due to the storm. The fear, however, is that amid the ongoing quest for normalcy, the signs will be missed by parents and caretakers, just as they were by the DeMatteos.
"Unless you have your antenna up and are attuned to the symptoms, you may miss it," said Dr. Steven Kairys, chairman of pediatrics at the K. Hovnanian Children's Hospital. "They're real and they're important, but they're not (making) kids end up in the ER."
New Jersey health officials have recognized the effects Sandy will have on mental health, and on Thursday announced that the Department of Human Services received nearly $2 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to extend crisis counseling to Sandy survivors through its program, "New Jersey Hope and Healing."
Children are especially vulnerable, and early detection is key to addressing anxiety issues before they become long-term traumas.
"The longer we sit on it, the longer it becomes a real fear that's harder to shake," said Christine Tintorer, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Monmouth Medical Center.