How to Spot Some of the Signs of PTSD in Teens?

How to Spot Some of the Signs of PTSD in Teens?

Every teenager goes through the typical emotional roller coaster.

They may love you one minute and hate you the next.

Suppose your teen lashes out more than usual and isolates herself from her friends.

Her father had cancer and passed away a few months ago.

She claims to be fine, but you notice that she only comes out of her room to get food. 

She has trouble sleeping and screams at night, claiming she is reliving seeing her father fall and cry out in pain over and over.

She could have PTSD.

Post-traumatic stress disorder develops after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event

Each individual is different, and what causes one teen to develop PTSD does not appear to affect their sibling or another person in the same way.

Adults handle stress differently than teenagers because we have developed coping skills, whether good or bad, to assist us when confronted with traumatic events.

On the other hand, a teen's father's death may be the first traumatic event they have had to deal with in their short life.

Now that we have discussed what PTSD in teens is let's go over some of the signs of PTSD in teens and some of the possible things that could cause PTSD to develop.

Thankfully, there is help for teens who have PTSD, and therapy options are available to cope with the pain and move on to the long, fulfilled life they deserve.

Trauma & PTSD Counselors

Mallory Heise, LPC, LAC

Mallory Heise, LPC, LAC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 602-1342
Noah Suess, MA, LPC

Noah Suess, MA, LPC

(719) 481-3518
Joel Harms, MA, LPC

Joel Harms, MA, LPC

(720) 449-4121
Naomi Kettner, LPC, NCC

Naomi Kettner, LPC, NCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 452-4374
Katherine Miller, LPCC

Katherine Miller, LPCC

(720) 449-4121
Olivia Woodring, LPCC, NCC

Olivia Woodring, LPCC, NCC

(719) 345-2424
Shannon Hamm, LPC, CCTP

Shannon Hamm, LPC, CCTP

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 452-4374
Janelle Wagenknecht, MA, LPCC, ADDC

Janelle Wagenknecht, MA, LPCC, ADDC

(720) 710-0919
Derek Bonds, LPC

Derek Bonds, LPC

Pueblo, Colorado
(719) 696-3439
Felicia Gray, MS, LPC

Felicia Gray, MS, LPC

Pueblo, Colorado
(719) 696-3439

What Are Some Signs of PTSD in Teens?

One of the signs of PTSD in teens is aggressiveness, which differs from adults who have PTSD.

Teenagers with PTSD may become more violently prone and become physical with their siblings or friends.

Another sign that is more common in teens than in adults is reliving the event. 

This can involve seeing flashbacks of the event and having sleep disturbances or recurring dreams about the event.

Some other signs of PTSD in teens to look out for are:

  • Avoiding people or places that remind them of the trauma
  • Difficulty concentrating at school
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed: sports, choir, band
  • Irritability
  • Flashbacks
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares, or night terrors
  • Isolating from others
  • Impulsive and risky behaviors
  • Violent outbursts
  • Feeling numb emotionally
  • Feeling extreme sadness

If your teen exhibits some of these symptoms, they may have PTSD.

Or perhaps they are acting out of character by hanging out with a different group of friends or unexpectedly cheating on their significant other when they were previously loyal to them.

If something is wrong, it may benefit both your teen and yourself to seek PTSD treatment.

So, what exactly is trauma to a teen?

What Are Some Examples of Trauma That May Result in PTSD in Adolescents?

While some students may be able to move on after witnessing a school shooting, others may not be able to. 

They may even start acting out the violence at home with toy guns or a video game, just like a child would. 

Because teenagers are between children and adults, they can experience traumatic events and react either way. 

In one manner, they may act like a child, but they may act like an adult in another.

Some types of events that could lead to PTSD in teens include:

  • Sexual abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Home flooding or other natural disasters
  • Domestic violence in the home
  • Robbery
  • Shooting at school
  • A loved one's death
  • A house fire
  • Military combat
  • Car accidents
  • The target of hate or threats at school

This is not an exhaustive list of traumatic scenarios because everyone interprets events and reacts to situations differently. 

If you notice signs of PTSD in teens, remember that treatment is available. 

You can help your kids adjust their ways of thinking, allowing them to move past the trauma healthily.

How Common Is PTSD in Teens?

Although teens cannot avoid trauma, not every child or adolescent who witnesses an event will develop PTSD. 

Some teenagers will recover well from trauma.

However, of those children and teenagers who have experienced trauma, 3 percent to 15 percent of girls and 1 percent to 6 percent of boys develop PTSD.

Girls are more prone to developing PTSD than boys, and some estimate that PTSD in teens is higher than in adults, but it's not always caught in time.

What about the son riding home from basketball practice with a teammate in the rain? 

The driver lost control of the vehicle, which flipped upside down off the bridge. The driver was killed, but the other teen was not.

He appears to be okay at first, but a few days after the funeral, he begins to isolate himself and stops attending basketball practice. 

He becomes agitated and yells at his younger sister. 

He claims that he sees the car flipping over in his dreams every night and that he only sleeps a couple of hours per night.

He appears to be suffering from PTSD.

What Can PTSD in Teens Lead To if Left Untreated?

Untreated PTSD in adolescents can lead to a variety of mental health problems. 

The development of a substance use disorder is one risk.

Teenagers are more likely to drink due to peer pressure and partying, so having a drink to numb the pain is more common when a traumatic event occurs. 

Teens who have experienced trauma may begin to use drugs or alcohol to cope with their negative feelings, a precursor to developing alcoholism later in life.

We must treat signs of PTSD in teens as soon as possible to help them later in life.

Untreated PTSD can lead to substance use disorders and other problems such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Other co-occurring mental disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Dropping out of college or trade school
  • Engage in risky behaviors like unprotected sex and gambling
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Self-injury and suicide
Now that we've covered the signs of PTSD in teens let's look at how you can help your teen overcome it.

What Are Some Treatment Options for PTSD in Teens?

Fortunately, there are treatment options available for you and your teen. 

If they exhibit any of these symptoms, they should seek the help of a therapist who can help them work through the trauma.

Some treatment approaches may include any of the following:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Art therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Holistic healing
  • Eye movement and desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Medications
If you notice any signs of PTSD in your teen, it is a good idea to find a therapist who can assist your child in positively overcoming the trauma.


PTSD in teens can make their lives difficult. 

Thankfully there are treatment options if you notice any of these signs. 

After a traumatic event, therapy can help them get back on track and succeed.

Teenagers are young and deserve a chance in life after any hardships they may have overcome.


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July 17th, 2024

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