Is your teen predisposed to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Once upon a time, it was thought Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was something only war veterans or prisoners of wars experienced after being exposed to traumatic events outside the usual realm of human stressors—victims of violence.

Recent research conducted by the Boston Medical Center has discovered that simple exposure to violence, whether it be between parents, local community or on the nightly news bulletin could develop symptoms of PTSD including irrational fear and anxiety.

Many children who see violence, whether it’s on the school playground or watching a gory horror movie can possibly experience PTSD symptoms. The experience can affect a child’s capability for thinking clearly, processing information and focusing on tasks at hand. Additionally, they are likely to mimic the witnessed behavior and are subject to displaying antagonistic and destructive outbursts themselves.

Another side effect can be cortisol levels out of balance, taking a physical toll. During the course of a distressing incident, the body increases blood sugar to ensure the muscles have extra energy. Blood pressure and cortisol also increase.

The mental toll is a result of a teenager realising their world can change in an instant—a loss of innocence, which creates distrust. Flashbacks, bad dreams, anger about being unable to do anything about the circumstances of the event, may result in avoidance issues, doing anything to escape reliving the experience.

Avoidance and the inability to express oneself is characteristic of PTSD and can lead to drinking, drug abuse, anger and other risk-taking behaviours. Teens manifesting symptoms will need therapy to empower them with more suitable coping tools and medication.

If your child is exhibiting concerning behaviours and you suspect they may be suffering from PTSD, its best to talk to a therapist as soon as you can.