Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is most commonly associated with soldiers returning from combat; however, it is not limited to that select group. PTSD can affect children and teens who have survived at least one traumatic event. Sadly, PTSD is often overlooked in teens and adolescents because the symptoms look like other conditions commonly seen in teens. Today we’re going to talk about what PTSD is, what leads to PTSD in teens, and the causes.

What is PTSD in Teens?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is defined as the development of specific symptoms after a teen experiences a terrifying or traumatic event. The event usually includes physical or emotional hard being threatened, seen, or experienced. Not all teens who experience trauma develop PTSD, in fact, according to The National Center for PTSD, 3% to 15% of girls and 1% to 6% of boys who have experienced at least one trauma will develop PTSD.

What Can Cause PTSD in Teens?

Studies report that 14% to 43% of boys and 15% to 43% of girls will experience a minimum of one traumatic event. As we can see from the statistics, not all teens and children who experience terrifying events will develop PTSD. It is not known exactly why some children recover after a few weeks or months from a traumatic event and others develop PTSD. It has been consistently observed that the causes of PTSD can vary due to a variety of factors including:

  • Severity of the event
  • Exposure to multiple traumatic events
  • Caregivers’ reaction to the trauma
  • Teen’s proximity to the event

Genetics also seem to come into play. If your teen has a close relative who has struggled with depression or other mental health disorder, there is a great risk they will develop PTSD when exposed to trauma. Additionally, your teen’s own body and mind can make them more susceptible to PTSD. There is research suggesting that the way an adolescent’s brain and body regulates hormones and chemicals specifically concerning stressful situations can put them in the high-risk category.

Types of Traumatic Events that can Cause PTSD in Teens

  • Emotional Abuse
  • Violent assault including rape or physical attacks
  • Threats with a knife, gun, or another weapon
  • Neglect
  • Physical and emotional abuse
  • Witnessing another person experience a traumatic event either in person or via TV or social media
  • Natural disasters like floods, earthquakes, fires, avalanches, tornados, hurricanes, etc.
  • Car accidents
  • Random acts of violence
  • Diagnosis of a life-threatening disease/illness for them or someone close to them
  • Death of someone close to them, even a “natural” death

If you know your child or teen has experienced one of the events listed above, it is important to watch carefully for the development of PTSD. Most teens will work through the trauma and move on in a matter of weeks or even a month. But if their behavior continues to be erratic (come back in August and see our blog on the signs and symptoms of PTSD in teens) then give us a call at 907-789-4733 we are here for you even if you just want to talk about your concerns. You are not alone and if you are worried about your teen, don’t dismiss your intuition, reach out.