As parents or caregivers we never what to think of children or teens in our care going through an event traumatic enough to cause Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) much less multiple events. Sadly though we live in a world that can and does expose our youth to events they should never have to cope with at their ages. So if you are a family member, coach, teacher, school counselor, camp counselor, librarian, bus driver, neighbor, or friend and you are concerned about a child or adolescent in your life, here are some signs of PTSD and what you can do about it.
PTSD Signs in Teens to Watch for
It is important to remember that anyone who experiences trauma will have stress symptoms in the days, weeks, even a month or two after the event including those listed in our blog Does my Teenager have PTSD? What is concerning is when the symptoms continue months or years after the event occurred. It is also common for the symptoms to not surface for months or years after the event.
- Flashbacks: Children and teens can experience flashbacks in which they think a lot about and relive the event. The thoughts and memories become intrusive and affect day to day life. They will experience distress when reminded of the event due to being triggered, having a flash back, or a nightmare. They will feel like the event is happening all over again, and again.
- Physical Reaction: If the teen is for any reason reminded of the event, it is common for them to experience headaches, stomach aches, and even have difficulties with physical contact. These aches and pains are not “all in their heads” but actual, physical symptoms of the PTSD. Trouble sleeping is also a prevalent physical symptom of PTSD.
- Denial of the Traumatic Event: Teens and children who live through a traumatic event will sometimes decide it is preferable to bury their pain and deny the event happened. It is common to observe emotional numbing, low self-esteem, and avoidance of anything that will trigger memories of the event.
- Difficulty Concentrating: Concentration is affected for several reasons. First, there are distracting memories, triggers, and thoughts tied back to the event that, as stated above, have an impact on every day life. Flashbacks can suddenly occur and transport the child right out of their current place and directly into the event again. In attempting to avoid situations that could trigger memories or flashbacks, teens suffering from PTSD can appear to have ADD as they respond in fear and try to move on to something safer. It is also hard to concentrate since PTSD often makes them startle easily. It is common for them to be hypersensitive to their surroundings and jump or flinch at loud noises or other situations similar to the event.
- Depression or Overwhelming Sense of Hopelessness: Children and teens who have lived through a traumatic event can develop an “impending sense of doom” that foreshadows everything they do. Though these thoughts are often subconscious, they often lead to depression and self-destructive choices. If a teen doesn’t feel like they have a future, they are more likely to sabotage or not care about relationships or activities they once enjoyed. They can act or spend recklessly.
If you suspect a teen you have in your life may be experiencing PTSD, it is important that they get professional help right away. Treatments for PTSD with children and teens have shown to be highly effective, and the sooner they get help, the better. Our staff at our Intake & Assessment Center can help you with basic questions and figure out where to start. Cornerstone Emergency Shelter is located at 9290 Hurlock Avenue (just around the corner from the Skate Park). We’re open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. You can reach us at 907-789-7654.