Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a diagnosable mental health condition that is listed under the new category called Trauma- and Stressor- Related Disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). It is characterized by “intrusive thoughts, nightmares and flashbacks of past traumatic events, avoidance of reminders of trauma, hypervigilance, and sleep disturbance, all of which lead to considerable social, occupational, and interpersonal dysfunction.” 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, and more. The Boston Children’s Hospital conducted a study that found sixty-one percent of young people (age 13 to 17) had been exposed to at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, and nineteen percent had experienced three or more traumatic events in their lifetime.
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. Nevertheless, some of the most widespread symptoms associated with PTSD could include any combination of the following examples, provided by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH):
- Reckless behaviors.
- Flashbacks to the event.
- Irregular sleep.
- Physical aches and pains.
- Difficulty with physical contact.
- Severe anxiety.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Low self-esteem.
- Constant feelings of fear and worry.
- Hyper vigilance.
- Experiencing crying spells.
- Tense muscles.
- Suicidal ideation.
- Risky behavior.
- Social anxiety.
Teenagers with PTSD are at a higher risk of developing co-occurring mental health conditions, such as chronic pain, anxiety disorders, depression, substance use disorders, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
PTSD and Teenage Mental Health
Mental health is explained by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” All adolescent experiences contribute to a teenager’s mental health and emotional well-being. Unaddressed or ignored teenage trauma will inform adolescent behaviors, as well as the way in which a person matures and subsequently behaves in adulthood. Further, Psychology Today asserts that untreated trauma has the propensity to cause permanent changes in the brain, producing corresponding shifts in intelligence, emotional reactivity, happiness, sociability, more. Hence, untreated PTSD will profoundly impact a teenager’s mental health. However, research indicates that with proper treatment and support PTSD is a highly treatable condition.
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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