Has My Troubled Teen Experienced an Event to Cause PTSD?

Has your troubled teenager been acting out more than usual?

Have you witnessed a shift in their behavior or a detachment from friends and family?

While teenagers are known to be resilient after facing a trauma, they aren’t immune to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) brought on from a stressful event and often don’t know how to cope or handle their feelings.

As a parent, it’s important to identify the stressful event that may be causing your teenager to struggle with physical, psychological, or emotional problems. By understanding what triggers your teenager’s PTSD, you can help them cope and learn how to manage it.

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder, otherwise known as PTSD, is a combination of symptoms that a person develops after experiencing some sort of trauma. When their mind or body goes through extreme stress, often related to abuse, injury, or death, it can result in PTSD.

Post-traumatic stress disorder can develop in a teenager from experiencing the traumatic event, witnessing the event, or simply learning about the event. While it can develop after a single experience, it may take repeated exposure for your teen to exhibit symptoms of PTSD.

What is trauma?

To understand post-traumatic stress disorder in teenagers, it’s important to learn what trauma is and the types that are more likely to cause PTSD. Trauma can be classified as any stressful, scary, or life-threatening experience that makes your troubled teen question their safety.

While dealing with the situation, your teen often feels intense fear and stress in both their mind and body. As a result, they need adequate time to recover mentally and physically — and in certain scenarios, the trauma may result in PTSD.

Causes of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in teens

If your teenager seems to be struggling to cope with their emotions, they might experience some event that has triggered PTSD. Traumatic events that can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder in teens include:

  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Violent assaults
  • Acts of violence
  • Natural disasters
  • Human-made disasters
  • Car accidents
  • Injuries
  • Life-threatening illnesses
  • House fires
  • Witnessing a traumatic event

Your teenager’s PTSD may be triggered in the aftermath of any of these traumatic events and leave them suffering if left untreated.

The signs of PTSD in teenagers

If your teenager has experienced a life-threatening event or has dealt with a traumatic event, you must be on the lookout for warning signs that they are struggling with PTSD. The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder typically develop within one month of when the trauma took place.

However, it can have a delayed response. In some cases, your teenager might not demonstrate signs of PTSD until months or years following the traumatic event when another stressful event triggers the memory of the first.

When you suspect your troubled teen has post-traumatic stress disorder, they might exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Exhaustion – Although teens are notorious for sleeping in late, PTSD can manifest in exhaustion. Watch out for a child that seems to be sleeping even more than usual.
  • Anxiety – Because a teen suffering from PTSD can easily be triggered through stress, they often struggle with anxiety. You might find that they are constantly in fear of experiencing the trauma again, leaving them tense, irritable, or hyper-alert.
  • Nightmares – After experiencing a traumatic event, your teen might find themselves reliving the moment over and over again as soon as they shut their eyes. These nightmares can make it difficult for your teen to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night.
  • Flashbacks – In some cases, your teen might experience flashbacks of the event when triggered by a loud noise, sound, or smell. This can make it difficult for them to concentrate on their everyday routine, including school, extracurriculars, and other activities.
  • Avoidance – Depending on the stressor your teen may have experienced, they may start avoiding people, places, or activities that remind them of the traumatic event. This can manifest in various ways, from avoiding people altogether or shutting down in their presence and avoiding conversation.
  • Irritability – A stressful event can wreak havoc on a teenager’s emotions, causing them to show emotional volatility and the inability to control how they are feeling. They may switch from happy to sad to mad in the blink of an eye.
  • Withdrawal – Do you usually have an open relationship with your teenager? If you notice them pulling back from your family or being unwilling to open up to friends, they may be struggling to deal with a stressful event.
  • Emotional numbness – A teenager’s emotions tend to be all other the place — which is why it can be starting when your teen begins to seem emotionally exhausted. There may be an issue if your teenager is more detached or negative than usual.
  • Lack of concentration – You may notice your teenager struggling to focus or concentrate in school or on simple conversations. If a traumatic event has overpowered their thoughts, they will find it harder to focus on their surroundings.

While it’s normal for a teenager to exhibit some of these signs following a traumatic event, your teen may have post-traumatic stress disorder if the symptoms persist for more than a month. If your troubled son’s behavior changes are prolonged, it’s recommended that you get them the professional treatment they need to work through the trauma effectively.

How to Treat PTSD in Teenagers

In most cases, the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder won’t disappear on their own. Helping your teenager understand that there is something deeper going on and getting them treatment is of the utmost importance for their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.

At Liahona Treatment Center, our therapists are trained to help troubled boys overcome post-traumatic stress disorder. We can provide your teenager with skills to help them cope with difficult feelings, such as anxiety, fear, or panic, surrounding the traumatic event.

Contact us today to find out how we can help your family.

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