It is a relatively common misperception that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) only affects older individuals. This is an understandable phenomenon. After all, “post” in the name connotates “after time has passed.” The issue here is that “after” does not necessarily mean after a long period of time or into adulthood.
Instead, PTSD can occur at any stage of our lives, including childhood. Many young people experience childhood traumas. The aftereffects can manifest as PTSD at any point after those traumas have occurred. Of course, the important point here is not whether a child is struggling with PTSD, but how soon can we get them the appropriate mental health care they need to address it.
Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
To first get a basic understanding of PTSD, we must define its parameters. An article in BMJ: British Medical Journal defines PTSD as “a mental disorder that may develop after exposure to exceptionally threatening or horrifying events.” The BMJ article also states that it can “occur after a single traumatic event or from prolonged exposure to trauma, such as sexual abuse in childhood.”
While PTSD causes are unique to each individual, several specific events commonly lead to the disorder. These situations include but are not limited to:
- Experiencing a serious personal accident
- Having someone in the family go through a serious accident or terminal illness
- Unexpectedly losing a loved one
- Going through a natural disaster
- Experiencing sexual assault or prolonged sexual abuse
- Going through intense experiences of combat or living in a combat zone
- Experiencing physical abuse or experiencing domestic abuse in the household
As we can see, none of these situations exclude any specific population. Any of these circumstances can happen to adolescents.
Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Adolescents
The concept of “exposure” is very important to remember when considering PTSD in childhood. It doesn’t matter what age we are when we are exposed to trauma, the potential to develop PTSD is always present. In fact, in younger people, the ability to cope with trauma is actually hindered by their underdeveloped brains.
Many people may be unaware of the fact that our brain isn’t even fully developed until our mid to late 20s. This means that children’s ability to handle situations is not the same as fully experienced, fully formed adults.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “Because the teen brain is still developing, teens may respond to stress differently than adults. This could increase teens’ chances of developing stress-related mental illnesses…” Of course, traumatic experiences are also stressful experiences. Thus the potential for a mental illness like PTSD is not only possible in adolescents but potentially even more likely.
The Warning Signs of Adolescent Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Now that we have seen some of the potential causes of adolescent PTSD, it is time to discuss some of the warning signs. Being able to spot these warning signs can be highly beneficial in getting a child or teen the professional care they need to limit symptoms. Some of these warning signs include, but are not limited to:
- Expressing panic, or having panic attacks when a traumatic incident is brought up
- Having difficulty sleeping, or sleeping excessively as an avoidance tool
- Becoming easily upset, sometimes for seemingly little or no reason
- Showing excessive alertness, also known as “hypervigilance”
- Acting aggressively toward others
- Having trouble concentrating, which can manifest in poor academic performance
- Becoming easily startled
- Expressing self-harm, or discussing having suicidal ideations
If any or some of these symptoms appear, it can be a sign of PTSD. However, it is important to reach out to professionals to get a definitive diagnosis.
How Clearview Girls Academy Utilizes Individualized Care for Recovery
Here at Clearview Girls Academy, we have helped many of our students struggling with PTSD get back on track and achieve long-term recovery. We do this by addressing all of our students’ needs on an individualized basis, while also focusing on three principles.
These three principles are emotional and behavioral reconciliation, academic restoration, and spiritual growth. We help our students with PTSD address the underlying issues associated with their disordered and often debilitating behaviors. That way, they can then begin to mitigate and manage their behavior. Also, we help get our students back on the academic track that PTSD often knocks them off of. We then offer them opportunities for adopting a spiritual life that we know will assist them long after they leave through our doors.
No child should have to experience trauma. Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in. While we can’t eliminate trauma in the world, we can help to eliminate the limitations trauma can create. Our children should not be limited in the world. They should be excited by their special and deserved place in it.
Many people may overlook the potential for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to exist in adolescents. This is because it is more often associated with adults. For example, combat veterans, parents who lose a child tragically, or adults dealing with serious financial issues. But PTSD can certainly affect teenagers, which is why it is important to spot it and get the child help asap if it is potentially detected. If you feel like your daughter may be struggling with PTSD or other issues of mental health, please know that you are not alone. We can help her recover. For more information on PTSD and how it can affect young people, please reach out to Clearview Girls Academy today at (888) 796-5484.