What to Know About PTSD in Teenagers?

What to Know About PTSD in Teenagers?



Teenage years can be intense and turbulent. While it is natural for teenagers to be moody and irritable, they can also develop major mental health issues that must be treated.

If your teen witnessed or experienced a tragic event, you may be wondering if they have developed PTSD. They may even be exhibiting symptoms of PTSD, such as flashbacks, nightmares, heightened anxiety, emotional numbness, or difficulty concentrating in school. 

Managing PTSD in a teenager can be extremely challenging for everyone involved, but simply being concerned is a wonderful and hopeful first step. Let's look at PTSD in teenagers, including its indications and symptoms, causes, and treatment choices.

How Common Is PTSD in Teenagers?

Anyone who has been exposed to trauma, such as witnessing violence, natural disasters, accidents, shootings, or being a victim of sexual or physical abuse, might develop PTSD. Loss of family members, divorce, and abandonment can all result in PTSD. 

Unfortunately, children and adolescents are not immune to trauma and can develop PTSD as a result of a traumatic experience. It is estimated that up to 5% of teenagers aged 13 to 18 suffer from PTSD. Girls are more likely to be affected than boys. PTSD affects around 8% of females and 2.3% of males.  Some researchers believe that PTSD is slightly more prevalent in adolescents than in adults. 

PTSD in teenagers should be taken seriously. While symptoms of PTSD may be very severe in the months following a stressful event and then subside, teens may endure these symptoms for years if not addressed.

Untreated PTSD can have serious effects, such as chronic sleep problems, depression, substance misuse, and difficulties working or functioning in daily life. 4 Furthermore, there are links between PTSD in youth and increased suicidal ideation.


Everyone has a unique PTSD experience. Sometimes the symptoms are evident; other times, youth experience the symptoms more internally, making it more difficult for an outsider to identify them.

The following are some of the most prevalent PTSD symptoms in children and teenagers:

  • Flashbacks to the traumatic experience
  • Constantly remembering or re-experiencing the event or experience
  • Increased nightmares
  • Insomnia
  • Feeling “numb” and depressed
  • Easily triggered by things that remind them of the traumatic event
  • Increased anger and irritability
  • Prone to being easily startled
  • Withdrawing from friends, experiences they used to enjoy
  • Having difficulty in school, including trouble concentrating and completing work
  • Not wanting to talk about the traumatic event
  • Wanting to avoid anything or anyone associated with the trauma

How Do Symptoms of PTSD in Teens Differ From Adults?

PTSD symptoms in teenagers are more similar to PTSD symptoms in adults than in younger children.

At the same time, teenagers with PTSD are more likely than adults to engage in "traumatic reenactment" (the act of incorporating aspects of their trauma experience into their lives). Teens may also exhibit more aggressive behaviours and behave more frequently on impulse.


PTSD in kids, like in adults, is caused by a traumatic incident or experience. Parents may be aware of these traumas, such as when a teen experiences violence or a natural disaster. Other traumas, however, may be less well defined or perhaps unknown to a parent, such as when a teen is sexually abused or in an emotionally abusive relationship.

Among the most common causes of PTSD in adolescents are:

  • Being present at any violent event or crime
  • Having witnessed domestic or community violence
  • Being a victim of violence or sexual exploitation
  • Seeing school shootings
  • Tornadoes, earthquakes, fires, and floods are examples of natural disasters.
  • Car accidents and plane crashes are examples of accidents.
  • The death of a family member
  • Seeing a loved member suffer from a terrible illness
  • Adoption or divorce as a child are examples of childhood traumas.
  • Abuse (sexual, physical, emotional, or mental)

Tragically, a large number of children experience trauma during their childhood or adolescence. By the age of 16, almost two-thirds of children will have had at least one traumatic event.6 The older a kid is, the more likely they are to have experienced more than one traumatic event, increasing the probability of developing PTSD.

A teen's likelihood of developing PTSD is determined by a number of factors, including how intensely they were exposed to the traumatic event, how many traumas they have already experienced in their lifetime, any preexisting mental health conditions they may have, and how much support they have as they process their trauma.

Diagnosis and Treatment

There is still hope for kids suffering from PTSD. Proper treatment can assist them in processing their trauma, learning to cope with it, and emerging from the experience with increased resilience.

The first step if you feel your adolescent has PTSD is to receive a diagnosis. You can start by going to your child's paediatrician, who may refer you to a therapist or psychiatrist. If it's evident that your teen is suffering from PTSD, counselling will almost certainly be suggested.

PTSD in teenagers can be successfully treated using the following therapies:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This includes assisting your teen in understanding their cognitive patterns and emotional/physical reactions to the trauma, as well as providing tools to assist them in coping.

Desensitization and Reprocessing of Eye Movements (EMDR). To deal with traumas, this method employs particular eye movements in conjunction with cognitive therapy.

Medication, in addition to treatment, may aid teenagers. Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), as well as anti-anxiety drugs, are used to treat PTSD in adolescents.

It's crucial to remember that teenagers may have difficulty communicating about their feelings or the traumatic incident or experience that precipitated their symptoms. Finding a mental health expert with whom your teen feels at ease is critical.

You may need to test a few different providers until you discover one whose personality compliments your teen's.

A Word From Ichhori

If you're the parent or caregiver of an adolescent who is exhibiting symptoms of PTSD, it's natural to feel scared and upset about what you're seeing and want to do everything you can to help your kid feel better.

The good news is that parents and caregivers may play a significant part in their teen's recovery. Not only can you assist your teen in obtaining the necessary care, but data indicates that teens who have parental support are more likely to fair well when dealing with PTSD.

While PTSD in teens is severe and must be treated, there are effective treatments available, and teens with PTSD can live full and happy lives.

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