PTSD can occur when a teenager experiences a shocking, unexpected event that is outside the range of usual human experience. The trauma is usually so extreme that it can overwhelm their coping mechanisms and create intense feelings of fear and helplessness. The traumatic event may be experienced by the individual directly (e.g. physical or sexual abuse, assault, rape, kidnaping, threatened death), by observation (witness of trauma to another person), or by learning about a trauma affecting a close relative or friend. Whether teens develop PTSD depends on a combination of their previous history, the severity of the traumatic event, and the amount of exposure.

Symptoms include:

  • Recurrent, intrusive, and distressing memories of the event
  • Recurrent, distressing dreams of the event
  • Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring
  • Intense psychological distress when exposed to reminders of the traumatic event and consequent avoidance of those stimuli
  • Numbing of general responsiveness (detachment, estrangement from others, decreased interest in significant activities)
  • Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (irritability, sleep disturbances, poor concentration, hyper-vigilance, anxiety).

For additional information see the following Facts for Families:
#70 - Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)