Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a more common problem among children and teenagers than most of us want to believe. PTSD is a mental health condition that occurs as a result of a trauma that was either life threatening, led to serious or potential injury, or caused intense horror, fear or helplessness.
When we think of PTSD, we may have an image in our mind of war veterans, domestic violence or another type of crisis situation that would ultimately lead to the PTSD diagnosis, but there are other points of trauma that may not readily come to mind such as, being bullied, being excluded from friendships (going from being considered popular to unpopular), death in the family, or an extended illness (such as a cancer diagnosis) from a family member or loved one. Any of these can lead to PTSD.
A study conducted by the National Comorbidity Survey Replication- Adolescent Supplement, which involved more than 10,000 teens between the ages of 13 and 18 estimated that at least 5 percent of the participants had suffered from one form of PTSD during their lifetime. The study indicated that girls had a higher percent of developing PTSD symptoms than boys (8 percent vs 2.3 percent.)
If you suspect your daughter might be suffering from PTSD, do you know what to do? Here’s what you need to know.
Signs of PTSD
Children over the age of three, through their teen years, typically experience the same kinds of symptoms relating to PTSD. Here are a few of the most common.
It’s normal for children to experience unexpected, intrusive thoughts for the first few weeks or months after experiencing trauma. Their brain is still attempting to understand it and work through it. However, if these flashbacks occur for several months or years, they could indicate PTSD.
When the trauma is discussed or mentioned to your daughter, she may complain of a headache, a stomach ache or some other type of vague illness. If you take her to the doctor, he may be unable to find an underlying cause, even though she is clearly in pain. This is often a sign of PTSD.
If the trauma occurred when your daughter was old enough to remember it, you may attempt to discuss it with her. However, she may deny it ever happened. Children with PTSD often do this as a way of altering their own reality and burying the pain the trauma caused.
Many troubled teens with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are misdiagnosed with ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactive disorder. While they may have trouble concentrating, it’s for a much different reason. As they come across triggers that remind them of their trauma, they move to something else that seems safer for them. This cycle repeats again and again as they attempt to avoid the trigger.
PTSD and Your Daughter: Finding Healing
If you suspect your daughter has PTSD, your first step should be getting help from professionals who know how to address her symptoms and help her overcome her past trauma. After a diagnosis, you may consider several helpful options, like individual therapy and group therapy. Getting your child involved in positive, uplifting activities like sports or fun events like going on trips or playing games outside can also assist them in creating a normal routine and avoiding isolation.
In some cases, you may need further assistance, and so many your daughter. At Greenbrier Academy boarding school, we offer several different types of therapy, plenty of activities for her to enjoy and opportunities to make new friends. More importantly, our concept of Strong Relationality can help your daughter understand how her negative perceptions of these past events have led to her current state of mind. We can then help her change those perceptions to help her overcome PTSD symptoms.
Is your daughter suffering from PTSD? If you suspect past trauma, know what symptoms to look for and how to help with her healing.