Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can have debilitating effects on adolescents. This condition may develop after they experience a traumatic event. If left untreated, PTSD in adolescents can lead to difficulties in emotional regulation, severe anxiety, depression, and even self-harming behavior.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that can develop in individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Traumatic events may include but are not limited to, physical or sexual assault, serious accidents, natural disasters, combat exposure, or other life-threatening situations.

People with PTSD often have difficulty coping with the intense and distressing memories of the traumatic event. These memories may be triggered by various cues, causing the individual to re-experience the event in the form of intrusive thoughts, nightmares, or flashbacks. They may also feel strong emotional or physical reactions when exposed to reminders of the trauma.

teen struggling from PTSD looking out the window

Signs of PTSD

The symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can be grouped into four main categories:

  • Intrusion: Recurrent, involuntary distressing memories, intrusive thoughts or images, or nightmares of the traumatic event.
  • Avoidance/Numbing: Efforts to avoid anything that reminds the person of the traumatic event, including talking about it, people or places related to it, and any activities that may cause distressing memories. They may also experience emotional numbing or have difficulty feeling positive emotions.
  • Negative moods and feelings: Persistent negative emotions such as fear, anger, guilt, shame, or distress. These moods can distort the individual’s sense of self or overall outlook on life.
  • Arousal and Reactivity: Increased irritability, anger outbursts, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating, and hypervigilance.

It is important to note that not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD. The condition’s development can be influenced by various factors, such as the intensity of the trauma, its duration, and the individual’s access to resources.



Causes and Triggers 

While not everyone who experiences trauma will develop PTSD, certain factors can increase the risk of its occurrence. Understanding the causes and triggers of PTSD is crucial in recognizing and addressing the condition effectively.

Common Causes

  • Traumatic Events: The primary cause of PTSD is exposure to a traumatic event(s). These events can be life-threatening, involve serious injury, or result in sexual violence.
  • Personal Vulnerability: Some may be more susceptible to developing PTSD due to pre-existing factors. A history of previous trauma, childhood adversity, a family history of mental health conditions, or a pre-existing anxiety disorder can increase the likelihood of PTSD development.
  • Lack of Social Support: The availability of a strong social support network can play a significant role in preventing or mitigating the effects of trauma. If a person does not have access to such support, they may be more likely to develop PTSD.

Common Triggers

  • Reminders of the Trauma: Certain cues can trigger memories of the traumatic event and cause distress. These may include people, places, objects, smells, sounds, or conversations related to the trauma.

  • Anniversaries: Dates or anniversaries associated with the trauma can evoke intense emotions and flashbacks.

  • Stressful Life Events: Even events that are unrelated to the original trauma can be triggering if they remind a person of the traumatic experience. Major life changes, loss of a loved one, or other significant stressors can impact a person’s coping mechanisms.

  • Media or News Exposure: Seeing or hearing about similar traumatic events through the media or news can trigger memories and reactions.

  • Substance Use: Alcohol or drug use can temporarily numb emotional distress, but substance use may also trigger or worsen PTSD symptoms in the long term.


teen with PTSD talking to therapist

Treatment of PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a challenging condition, but there are effective treatments available to help individuals manage and overcome its symptoms.

  • Psychotherapy– Using therapy and counseling techniques, individuals can learn to identify triggers and manage their reactions to them. Some specific types of therapy that may be beneficial are Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Exposure Therapy, and Group Therapy. Learn more about different types of therapy we provide here.

  • Medication– Different medications can be used to alleviate the symptoms of PTSD. Commonly prescribed medications include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and mood stabilizers.

  • Self-Help Strategies– Developing healthy habits such as regular exercise, proper nutrition, and getting enough sleep can help with managing PTSD. Mindfulness meditation, relaxation exercises, avoiding substance abuse, and building a supportive network are all important self-care strategies to try.

PTSD Frequently Asked Questions

How old do you have to be to develop PTSD?

PTSD can occur at any age, but it is most commonly diagnosed in adulthood. However, children and adolescents can also be affected by the condition.

What kind of events can trigger PTSD in people?

PTSD can be triggered by a variety of events, including physical or sexual assault, serious accidents, natural disasters, combat exposure, or other life-threatening situations. It is important to note that not everyone who experiences trauma will develop PTSD. The condition’s development can be influenced by various factors such as the intensity and duration of the traumatic event and the

Does everyone with PTSD require medication?

Not necessarily. Medication may be recommended in some cases, but not everyone will need to take medication for their PTSD. It is best to talk to a medical professional.

Can PTSD be cured?

While there is no “cure” for PTSD, it can be effectively treated and managed. Treatment typically involves a combination of psychotherapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and self-help strategies. With the right approach to treatment, individuals can develop effective coping mechanisms to reduce symptoms and improve their quality of life.

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