How Common Is PTSD In Teens? | Know Its Signs, Causes, And More

Last Update on January 2, 2023 : Published on January 2, 2023
How Common Is PTSD In Teens

Teens are known to be moody and intense at times. While it’s common for teens to experience mood swings and be irritable, sometimes these behaviors can indicate serious mental health issues that can’t be left unaddressed.

Teens, just like adults, can face trauma and those traumatic events can leave them with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) just like it does with adults. If your teen has ever experienced a traumatic event then they might be having signs of PTSD, sometimes masked with moodiness and irritability.

Helping a teen manage PTSD can be challenging for everyone involved, but as a parent, older sibling, or guardian, being concerned about them and taking the first steps in helping them recover can be a good (and hopeful) beginning.

Keep reading to explore how teens commonly experience PTSD, the signs of PTSD in teens, what might have caused the trauma, and how you can help them get the right treatment.

PTSD In Teens: How Common Is It?

PTSD In Teens

Post-traumatic stress can be experienced by anyone who’s ever been in a traumatic situation including abuse, domestic violence, accidents, shootings, deaths of a loved one, divorce, etc. Unfortunately, children and teenagers are also in the group who are susceptible to trauma and post-traumatic stress.

It’s been estimated that at least 5% of teens (aged 13-18) experience post-traumatic stress disorder. Also, it is reported that girls are likely to experience PTSD more than boys. Existence of PTSD is reported in 8% of young girls while it’s 2.3% in young boys. It could also be said that PTSD and its signs exist more in teens than adults.

PTSD in teens should not be taken lightly. Events that can leave a traumatic wound behind can affect the lives of teenagers and the symptoms of PTSD in teens can last up to years, unlike in adults.

Unaddressed and untreated PTSD can lead to consequences such as chronic sleep troubles, depression, alcohol or drug abuse, poor academic performance, poor social performance, and more. In teens, untreated PTSD can also be linked with suicidal ideation.

Let’s take a look at the signs of PTSD in teenagers.

Signs Of PTSD In Teenagers

Experiences and symptoms of PTSD in everyone can be different. Sometimes the signs are more obvious, while other times, they are more subtle and internal. Here are some common tell-tale signs of PTSD in teens that should not be ignored;

  • Flashbacks of the event
  • Constantly re-experiencing the trauma
  • Frequent nightmares
  • Sleep troubles such as insomnia
  • Feelings of numbness
  • Feelings of depression
  • Easily triggered by objects or events that remind them of the trauma
  • Frequent anger outbursts and irritability
  • Easily getting startled
  • Social withdrawal
  • Trouble concentrating on schoolwork
  • Poor academic performance
  • Shutting down when the topic of trauma comes up
  • Avoiding anything or anyone that reminds them of the trauma

Teens are more likely to be more aggressive and tend to act impulsively more frequently than adults struggling with PTSD do.

Causes Of PTSD In Young Adults

Like adults, post-traumatic stress is likely to be caused by a traumatic experience. These events and experiences might be known to their parents, especially in the case of domestic violence or accidents, but other times the traumatic event may not be clear such as sexual or physical abuse that’s unknown to the adults in their life.

Common causes of PTSD in young adults can include;

  • Being a witness to a violent event
  • Being a witness to domestic violence
  • Being a survivor of school shootings
  • Natural disasters like earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, etc.
  • Accidents (car, train, plane, etc.)
  • Death of a loved one
  • Seeing a loved one struggling with a terminal disease
  • Childhood traumas(abandonment, divorce of the parents, etc.)
  • Abuse – sexual, physical, emotional, etc.
  • Being a victim of bullying at school

It is also reported that the older the teen is (such as a 16-year-old), the more they’re prone to developing post-traumatic stress disorder. Of course, the probability of the teen developing PTSD depends on various factors, including;

  • The intensity of the exposure to the trauma
  • The number of traumatic events they’ve already experienced
  • Existing mental health disorders
  • The kind of support they have when they process the trauma

Treatment For PTSD In Teens

Treatment For PTSD

There are treatment options available for teens who are struggling with PTSD. With the right treatment and support to help them process their trauma, a teen can come out of the experience with healthy and strong resilience skills.

The first step in the treatment is to get a proper diagnosis from a professional. If you’re an adult such as a parent, older sibling, or guardian of a teen, then you can reach out to a professional or a counselor to get a diagnosis. If your teen is experiencing trauma or PTSD, then a professional would likely recommend therapy as a starting point.

Therapies to help treatment for PTSD in teens can include;

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapy involves helping the patient understand the source of their problem and the negative thought patterns they develop regarding the trauma. A professional then helps them develop healthy skills and tools to deal with the trauma.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR):In this therapy, specific eye movements are used along with cognitive therapy techniques to help work through the trauma and any subsequent problems.

If the signs and symptoms of PTSD are severe in the teen, then a professional may also suggest medications along with therapy to help them work through their symptoms.

As a parent/sibling/guardian, it’s also important to understand that your teen may have trouble expressing their feelings towards the trauma. So, you need to make sure they get help from a professional with whom your teen is comfortable.

Final Thoughts…

As a parent/sibling/guardian with a teen with PTSD, it is common to feel anxious and upset about how your teen might be behaving or expressing their feelings. It’s OK to want to help them but also feel helpless if you can’t.

Luckily, you can reach out to a professional therapist or a teen therapist to help your teen work through their trauma and feel better. Not only professional support but prenatal and family support can help a teen recover from the trauma faster and come out stronger and more resilient.

I hope we could help you understand the signs of PTSD in teens and how you can help your teen feel better. For more, you can write to us at info@calmsage.com or DM us on social media. You can also share your thoughts in the comments below.

Share the article with your fellow parents/siblings/guardians of teens with PTSD to help them. Do give us a thumbs-up if you liked the article.

Take Care and Stay Safe!

About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.

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