PTSD in Teens: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment Parents Need to Know
School violence happens time and time again. In the aftermath of a deadly event like the recent school shooting in Italy, Texas, many people focus on the immediate victims. And rightfully so: they are the ones most in need of immediate help and care. However, many people tend to forget about the dozens if not hundreds of students left facing PTSD from school violence. If left untreated, PTSD in teens can manifest into a variety of other symptoms – even years down the road. That’s why it’s important to take a proactive approach to PTSD help and mental health in general.
PTSD From a School Violence is Unfortunately All Too Common
In many cases, schools don’t have the resources or expertise to deal with teen mental health symptoms, so they often go unchecked until an act of violence occurs. Speaking to the Associated Press Cassie Shook, a 17-year-old junior in Italy, Texas, expressed her anger and frustration. Shook said she reported the suspect’s troubling behavior on several occasions to school staff. Nonetheless, the suspect entered the school cafeteria on January 22nd and opened fire on students. The violence ended with one 15-year-old girl in the hospital and the 16-year-old suspect taken into police custody. The high school students were reportedly moved “under guard” to a secure location at a nearby elementary school as police arrived. Although this 15-year-old girl certainly deserves the utmost love and care, she is far from the only victim. PTSD from school violence or PTSD from a mass shooting are both very real and require comprehensive care to recover. Studies show that support from parents and other sources are vital to a teen’s recovery from PTSD.
PTSD in Teens
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), between 15% to 43% of girls and 14% to 43% of boys will experience at least one trauma before they turn 18.
Why is that statistic so varied?
Many cases of trauma go unreported. Children and teens may be reluctant to speak up if they don’t think parents or loved ones will believe them or offer adequate support. PTSD in teens doesn’t just come from mass shootings and school violence. In fact, teens may get PTSD from a variety of traumas.
- Exposure to natural disasters
- Emotional or psychological abuse from family members
- Emotional or psychological abuse from other kids at school
- Physical abuse
- Physical threats
- Sexual abuse or harassment
- Living in a violent household or neighborhood
Children and teens are still learning how to live in their own skin. Adults may write-off certain cases of trauma as typical school teasing, but this can be extremely detrimental to a child or teen’s mental health.
Identifying PTSD Symptoms
According to a detailed report from the VA, teens who carry out school violence often have a history of PTSD and other mental health conditions such as depression. Mental health and PTSD in teens are community health issues – they truly affect everyone. It’s important for parents and loved ones to understand PTSD symptoms in teens and children so they can offer support and intervention before an act of violence occurs. In the event a child or teen is exposed to a trauma, it’s crucial to provide a safe and supportive environment.
PTSD Symptoms in Teens Parents Need to Know
PTSD symptoms look very different in children versus adults. Teens are halfway between adults and children. As a result, PTSD symptoms in teens may look like a mix of both adult and child symptoms.
This could include:
- Risky, dangerous, or impulsive behavior
- Feelings of low self-worth and guilt
- Feeling lonely and apart from others
- Substance use disorders
- Inappropriate sexual behavior
- Dreams or flashbacks to the traumatic event
- Problems remembering the details of the traumatic event
How to Respond to PTSD in Teens
How parents respond to trauma and PTSD in teens makes all the difference. It’s important for a teen to feel like they can trust a parent before divulging information about a specific trauma. If they don’t think a parent will believe them or respond with support, they may bottle up their thoughts. This can manifest down the road as substance use disorder, depression, anxiety, aggressive behavior, and other mental health conditions. If you’re concerned your teen isn’t talking about a traumatic event, reach out to others for help: find an adult they can trust.
Building trust takes time – it doesn’t happen overnight. Having a support system of family members and friends is extremely important, but so is comprehensive professional mental health treatment. Children, teens, and adults experiencing PTSD symptoms require personalized and attentive care that addresses their individual situation.
Some treatment options may include
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: for addressing the thought process and developing healthy coping skills.
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy: for learning how to manage painful feelings and unhealthy personality traits.
- Group Therapy: for discussing trauma with other survivors.
- Medication: for a variety of conditions including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and psychosis.
- Family Involvement: to develop a functional support system.
Everyone is unique. A treatment plan for PTSD should focus on the person’s individual symptoms and experience with trauma.
For PTSD from School Violence and General PTSD Help, One Love Services is Here
We understand that teens need comprehensive mental health treatment and individualized patient-centric care. Our PTSD help for teens includes supervised inpatient treatment with a variety of evidence-based services including cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, and solution-focused therapy.