It might make sense that teens who experience post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a stress disorder that results from a traumatic experience, do better with social supports. That is, when PTSD teens have support from parents, peers, and mental health professionals, they are more likely to heal from the damaging effects of trauma.
Connection with others is essential in the healing of PTSD. Often, teens feel alone in their symptoms and fearful that a traumatic event might reoccur. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental illness that includes high levels of stress as a result of experiencing a recent trauma. Symptoms of anxiety and dissociation can emerge within two days to one month. However, depending on the severity of the event, the resiliency of an adolescent, their psychological makeup, conditioning, ethnicity, and other factors, the event can leave either no effects or severe effects on the psyche or any version in between.
Teens who might be vulnerable to developing PTSD are those who have experienced any of the following:
- Death in the family
- Witnessing a crime
- Death or suicide of a close friend
- Domestic violence
- Natural disaster
- Witnessing violence
- Chronic bullying
- Repeated abandonment
- Physical or sexual abuse
If a teen has gone through any of the above difficult experiences or any catastrophic event that threatened death or serious injury, he or she might be vulnerable to developing PTSD. If teen PTSD is left untreated and the symptoms of anxiety and dissociation continue and worsen.
The typical PTSD symptoms teens might experience include anxiety, extreme emotional fluctuation, flashbacks, loneliness, anger, irritability, bad dreams, and frightening thoughts. An individual might also exhibit symptoms of avoidance, such as staying away from certain places to avoid reliving the traumatic experience or forgetting the experience entirely.
There are two major categories of individuals who might experience a series of traumatic events: children and veterans. According to the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, about 15% to 43% of girls and 14% to 43% of boys go through at least one trauma. Of those children and teens who have had a trauma, 3% to 15% of girls and 1% to 6% of boys develop teen PTSD.
Most experts agree that children and teens tend to be more vulnerable to the effects of trauma than adults whose brains have fully developed. The underdeveloped brain is not mature enough to integrate the traumatic experience and process it in a way that facilitates moving on from it. In addition to still being in development, other factors that can contribute to the development of PTSD is having a history of prior trauma, chronic child abuse, chronic neglect, poor psychological adjustment prior to the traumatic event, and the presence of mental illness in the family.
Furthermore, female teens are more prone to PTSD than male teens. This might be because they are more likely to experience interpersonal violence, more vulnerable to self-injury, and because of hormonal and brain differences. Lastly, those with little social support are more vulnerable to the effects of trauma after a life-threatening event has taken place.
Traditionally, treating teen PTSD effectively includes both psychotherapy and medication. The medication can help manage fluctuating moods and high levels of anxiety. However, therapy can provide ways to cope with the anxiety, facilitate awareness of triggers that might prompt a distressing memory, and provide comfort through a difficult time. However, the following types of support can facilitate healing PTSD in teens:
- Group Therapy
- Individual Therapy
- Family Therapy
- Support Groups
Of course, healing from PTSD is a process that needs the facilitation of a mental health professional. If you or someone you know has faced a traumatic event and is experiencing anxiety, depression, or other symptoms as a result, call upon the support of a therapist or psychologist.