Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Teens

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that is sometimes caused by a terrifying experience or event.  When someone experiences or witnesses something that causes an extreme amount of fear and terror, reactions happen in their brain that can cause them significant difficulty and distress.  After the event is over many people will experience nightmares, flashbacks, severe anxiety and intrusive thoughts about the event. Although most people have difficulty adjusting and coping with a traumatic event, only some will develop PTSD.

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD:

PTSD symptoms are stress related symptoms caused by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Symptoms must last longer than three months and cause significant life impairment. Symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
  • Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (known as flashbacks)
  • Nightmares or upsetting dreams related to the event
  • Severe emotional or physical reactions to reminders of the event
  • Avoiding thinking or talking about the event
  • Avoiding people, places or things that remind you of the event
  • Negative feelings about yourself or other people
  • Inability to experience positive emotions
  • Feeling detached or emotionally numb
  • Hopelessness
  • Memory problems
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Insomnia or trouble sleeping
  • Easily frightened or startled
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame
  • General anxiety and nervousness
  • Panic attacks

PTSD symptoms can vary over time.  Periods, where you are more stressed, can cause symptoms to increase.  Reminders of the traumatic event can also cause a surge in unpleasant symptoms.

What Happens When PTSD is Left Untreated?

Leaving PTSD untreated can have disastrous consequences for the sufferer including addictions, anger management issues, loneliness and severe depression.  Adolescents with untreated PTSD often miss classes, have trouble making friends at school, struggle academically, experiment with alcohol and drugs, self harm and engage in suicidal behavior. Studies have shown that sufferers of trauma who are not treated appropriately are often more likely to be victimized again in the future.

Co-Occurring Conditions

Adolescents with PTSD are at a higher risk of developing other disorders and mental health problems including:

Treatment for PTSD

Behavioral Therapy – Studies have shown that talk therapy and in particular Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an effective form of treatment for PTSD.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help teens with PTSD recognize thought patterns that hold them back and challenge them.  Using CBT, teens who struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder slowly expose themselves to the things that cause them anxiety and distress and learn to cope with the difficult emotions that come up in the process.

Medication – Although there are no medications that treat all of the symptoms of PTSD, many sufferers are prescribed medications to help alleviate some of its unpleasant side effects.  The most commonly prescribed medications for PTSD are antidepressants such as:

  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Zoloft (sertraline)
  • Paxil (paroxetine)

PTSD is primarily an anxiety disorder and as such many adolescents with PTSD are treated with anxiety medications.  Medications that are often prescribed for anxiety include:

  • Inderal (propranolol)
  • Neurontin (gabapentin)
  • Tenex (Guanfacine)

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If an Adolescent Has Suicidal Thoughts

Sadly, suicidal thoughts and behaviors are common with some mental illnesses.  If you think your adolescent is at risk of hurting themselves or attempting suicide get help right away:

  1. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
  2. Call a suicide hotline number.
    1. In the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor.

PTSD Treatment for Teens at Adolescent Growth

Adolescent Growth’s holistic approach to treatment is ideal for helping teens who have suffered from trauma. Psychological trauma affects the mind, body and soul and all three are taken into consideration when developing individualized treatments for our teenage clients.  A team of experts in adolescent health will collaborate to create a treatment plan that targets maladaptive coping behaviors, relieves stress and helps develop effective coping skills.

Clients receive individual therapy, group therapy and family therapy.  They are instructed in yoga and meditation and have access to a state-of-the-art gym.  Nutritious meals are planned by a registered dietitian.

If you are struggling to help your child who is suffering from PTSD or another mental or behavioral disorder, please call our admissions department to discuss treatment options. 888-948-9998.

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