Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as defined by the Mayo Clinic “is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event—either experiencing it or witnessing it.” PTSD is recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a diagnosable mental health condition and is listed under the new category called Trauma- and Stressor- Related Disorders. PTSD can occur when a teen has experienced severe stress or anxiety after being exposed to a traumatic event. Commonly reported traumatic events that may lead to PTSD include fire, physical abuse, violent assaults, sexual abuse, rape, car accidents, natural or man-made disasters, being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, witnessing another person go through a traumatic event, military combat, and more. The symptoms that can manifest after exposure to a single traumatic event or repeated exposure to trauma will vary from teen to teen. PTSD symptoms can also change in intensity over time.
Teenage PTSD Treatment
There are a variety of treatment options for an adolescent struggling with PTSD. A teen with post-traumatic stress disorder will likely require a customized treatment plan that may include a combination of different treatment modalities. Some of the psychotherapeutic options that could be integrated into a teen treatment plan for PTSD may include, but are not limited to any of the following:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): this can help correct irrational and/ or inaccurate thoughts a young person may have regarding the trauma as well as help him or her develop skills and healthy coping mechanisms for reducing anxiety and stress.
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): uses mindfulness skills to help a young person focus on accepting their emotions, while also helping to adjust the unhealthy behaviors that arise from the emotions.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): this utilizes guided eye movement techniques to help a teen process his or her memories, thoughts, and emotional associations in relation to the trauma.
- Creative arts therapy and expressive arts therapy (play therapy, art therapy, music therapy, drama therapy, sand therapy, etc.): this can provide the young person with a different medium to express, process and integrate his or her thoughts and feelings surrounding the trauma.
- Group therapy: participating in group therapy sessions can help a young person learn from peers that are navigating thoughts and emotions related to trauma.
It is important to bear in mind that there is no universally effective treatment plan used for teens that have experienced trauma. Every teenager is different and will require a somewhat unique treatment plan when it comes to navigating the healing process from trauma. Guidance from a qualified mental health provider can help provide a teen suffering from PTSD with the much-needed support in cultivating effective coping strategies and learning applicable skills to aid in the PTSD recovery process.
For Information and Support
Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times.
Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.
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