Is Your Teenager Struggling with PTSD?

June 21, 2018

Is Your Teenager Struggling with PTSD?

We can’t control everything that our children encounter or see. Sometimes they may go through extreme stress that is completely out of our control. Teenagers will usually recover from these events, but in some cases, they may not be able to recover on their own.

Although symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can go unnoticed for many years, seeking help for your children when you see the signs may truly help them in the long run.

There is no easy way to convince a child to just snap out of PTSD. Often times even adults go through years of treatment and therapy for PTSD.

Childhood Traumatic Events and PTSD Facts

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, child protection services get around 3 million cases, involving 5.5 million children per year. Of the reported cases, the different types of abuse are:

  • 65% neglect
  • 18% physical abuse
  • 10% sexual abuse
  • 7% psychological abuse

Studies have shown that 15% to 43% of all girls (3.15 million to 9.03 million) go through at least one trauma, and of those girls who have had trauma 3% to 15% (94,500 to 1.35 million) develop PTSD.

Similar studies have shown that 14% to 43% of boys (2.94 million to 9.03 million) go through at least one trauma, and of those boys who have had trauma 1% to 6% (29,400 to 541,800) develop PTSD. Data collection from varying sources of information has lead to these drastic ranges, and more efforts to accurately track the prevalence of PTSD amongst children are needed.

Signs of PTSD in Teenagers

Children with PTSD may show signs of:

  • Intrusive thoughts such as vivid recurrent flashbacks and the replaying of the event over in behavior or thought
  • Nightmares and involuntary memories
  • Avoiding reminders of the trauma, including resisting to talk about the trauma
  • Anger and irritability
  • Negative thoughts and feelings about oneself or others, displaying hopelessness
  • Intense fear or often irrational fear
  • Denial of the event
  • Feelings of numbness
  • Social withdrawal
  • Self-destructive or harmful behavior
  • Restlessness or fidgeting
  • Lack of concentration

Many children will experience some or many of these symptoms. While some of these may be common symptoms for pubescent children, PTSD symptoms will persist for months or years. Most children will develop symptoms of PTSD within three months of the traumatic event, but for some symptoms may appear later as well. It is important to understand that the symptoms of PTSD may result in other related conditions, such as drug use, memory problems, and depression.


Not all children will need psychiatric treatment, and in some cases, support groups or family members could help to resolve the PTSD. However, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals should be consulted if you see the above symptoms in your child. Some psychiatric, medication and other therapies include:


Psychotherapy refers to general psychological methods to help change a person’s behavior. For children with PTSD psychotherapy could mean putting the child in a safe environment with a psychiatrist or other mental health professional to talk. The psychiatrist or mental health professional may use games, drawings, writings, or play to help facilitate the talking. Some forms of psychotherapy involve the family, as well.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

In cognitive behavior therapy, the therapist will help the child break the pattern of thought and understand their feelings about the traumatic event. The therapist will then help the child to change their thoughts about the event. Cognitive behavior therapy has been regarded as the most helpful for children with PTSD.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy

This form of therapy shows or replays the trauma to trigger symptoms in a safe and controlled way. This form of therapy helps children overcome their fear and learn to cope.

Holistic Interventions

Holistic methods such as acupuncture, animal-assisted therapy, and meditation can be alternative methods for PTSD therapy.

Special Interventions

Children who have turned to drugs, indulge in sexual desire or have disturbed behavior need special interventions from certified psychiatrists or mental health professionals.


Pharmacotherapy is generally not recommended for children. Please consult a psychiatrist about medications.

Seeking Residential Treatment at Centered Health

We all want the best for our children. If your child is displaying signs of PTSD or you are curious about PTSD treatments methods please make a visit to Centered Health to inquire about a residential treatment option.