Has your teen experienced trauma that he doesn’t know how to process and heal from? Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can leave long-lasting mental health issues that may follow your teen into adulthood. Without getting into a treatment program that addresses PTSD, your teen may not have the coping skills and strategies he needs as he struggles with the symptoms he is sure to experience.
Learning more about PTSD, the struggles that you and your teen will both face, and options for treatment can help put you in a stronger position to help your teen. Keep in mind that the sooner you get your teen the help he needs, the sooner he’ll be able to focus on healing.
An understanding of PTSD
To understand PTSD, you will need to understand a little more about trauma. An intense and often overwhelming experience, those who go through trauma fear for their safety, their lives, and the safety of others they are around. There are several types of traumatic events that could potentially result in PTSD.
- Violence, whether at home, at school, or in the neighborhood
- Fires, floods, and other types of natural disasters
- Accidents, like car accidents or a bad fall
- Assault, physical abuse, or sexual abuse
- Loss of a family member or friend
- Instability within the home, whether due to family dynamics or financial issues
- Bullying or being the target of hate crimes or threats of physical harm
An event or a situation can be traumatic for a teen even if they don’t experience the danger themselves. As an example, seeing someone else get injured or perhaps die from a violent crime. Teens don’t need to witness violence or dangerous situation. Being told that someone they care about has died in an accident due to an act of violence or suicide can also be traumatic. Grief and fear can feel overwhelming and intense and is known as traumatic grief.
Trauma does not always result in PTSD. Not all teens who have experienced trauma will struggle with PTSD. That said, most people who experience traumatic events will feel some type of effects of the trauma as it’s a natural response to react to stressful events. This is known as a stress reaction. Many will find a way to cope with the experiences, particularly if they have strong support from those around them. Therapy can also prove helpful.
If the stress reaction symptoms last longer than a month, your teen is likely struggling with PTSD. Getting an official diagnosis will allow mental health and medical professionals to treat your teen with the right solutions. It can also help your teen’s school put a plan into place to help your teen should he have anxiety or a panic attack while he’s at school.
The signs and symptoms of PTSD
As is the case with many types of mental and even physical wellness issues, the signs and symptoms of PTSD can vary between individuals and can vary drastically in severity. There are several that are seen most often in children and teens with PTSD, including the following.
- Nightmares and night terrors that result in being afraid to fall asleep.
- Flashbacks, which are experiencing the same thoughts and feelings that happened during the trauma event.
- Avoidance of anything that may be a reminder of the event, including going near places and people that could be potential triggers.
- Angry outbursts and irritability, including exaggerated responses to triggers that may have otherwise been easily tolerated.
- A startle response that may seem exaggerated to others. As an example, jumping or crying when unexpectedly startled by a noise or someone coming into the room.
- Difficulty concentrating and focusing, whether at school or on fun activities like reading or playing video games.
- Hypervigilance, which means that your teen is constantly on edge even when he should feel safe at home.
- Trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.
- Depression and anxiety, along with panic attacks and other signs of mental health struggles.
- Feeling guilt, shame, and emotionally numb. Teens may also struggle to connect with family and friends.
Teens struggling with PTSD often have difficulties at school, with dropping grades and arguments with peers and teachers. PTSD in teens is also often linked to aggressive, reckless, and self-destructive behavior. This self-destructive behavior can include the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol, along with spiraling depression. The sooner your teen gets the help he needs, the sooner he’ll recover and move forward.
Struggles parents may be facing
You know your teen is struggling with PTSD, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore your own struggles as you try to help him through this.
- Confusion about what it is your teen is thinking and feeling.
- Guilt that you couldn’t protect your teen or can’t just fix this immediately for him.
- Stress at trying to juggle helping your teen and your other responsibilities.
- A feeling of helplessness that you can’t do enough to help your teen.
- Depression, anxiety, and difficulty coping with things that you once handled without issue.
It may be cliché, but you truly can’t fill from an empty cup. Work with your own therapist, join a support group, or lean into the support from your family and friends. You don’t need to deal with this on your own.
Treating teens with PTSD
There are several options for treating a teenager with PTSD. Not all treatments will work for every person, so it can often be a bit of a trial-and-error process to find the right combination of treatments.
- Therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often a part of treatment programs for teens with PTSD.
- Medication is one option that may work for some teens. The medication is often used to address the anxiety and also the depression that can accompany PTSD.
- Peer group support can help teens who feel isolated and alone with their trauma find others who understand their struggles.
- Non-medication therapy options, such as microcurrent neurofeedback can prove effective. This non-invasive and safe therapeutic option essentially encourages the brain to create new brain wave patterns. It’s been effective at treating anxiety, depression, ADHD, and insomnia and PTSD.
Is your teen struggling with PTSD? Getting the right treatment is essential to helping your teen address and better process the trauma he’s experienced. Reach out to HelpYourTeenNow to learn more about the resources we can provide to teens and families in crisis.
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