4 Common Causes of PTSD in Teens


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is more common among adolescents than you might think. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, five percent of teens experience this anxiety disorder. PTSD occurs more prevalently in girls than boys, with 8 percent of girls experiencing it during their teen years and only 2.3 percent of boys. For these 1.5 percent of teens, this disorder can lead to severe impairment.

PTSD has many causes, which can overwhelm a teen and their ability to cope. Let’s take a look at the most common causes of PTSD among teens.

Causes of PTSD in Troubled Teens

PTSD is a type of stress disorder that results in the development of particular symptoms after a traumatic event. As a parent of a daughter with PTSD, it’s important to remember that the objective facts of what happens don’t matter. What matters is how your teen felt while the event was occurring and after. Not all teens respond to traumatic events in the same way. One teenager might suffer from PTSD, while another, who went through the same thing, won’t.

The underlying cause of PTSD is a traumatic event that has occurred. However, there are factors that can make PTSD more common in some teens than in others.

  • Genetics- If a teen has a first-degree relative that has previously had issues with mental health problems such as anxiety, depression or PTSD, they are much more likely to develop PTSD themselves when faced with a traumatic event.
  • Physical- Hormones and chemicals the brain regulates to respond to a stressful situation can directly impact PTSD development. This regulation varies between different individuals, which may factor into why some teens develop PTSD and some don’t.
  • Emotional- Teens who have a history of anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders are much more likely to develop PTSD.
  • Environmental- The experiences a child has throughout his life can affect PTSD. A teen that has experienced more severe trauma for a longer amount of time is more apt to develop PTSD. This is especially true for long-lasting and repeated traumas, such as abuse or neglect.

Types of Trauma That Can Lead to PTSD

Troubled teens develop PTSD for many different reasons. Certain traumatic events can leave your daughter feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope with their thoughts or feelings. She may experience intrusive thoughts, social withdrawal, isolation, hyper-arousal, cognitive changes and emotional numbness. She may relive the event over and over in her head, feeling the same pain, fear and stress as she did initially.

Determining the type of trauma that has occurred can sometimes be the first step to healing. There are many traumatic events that can cause this. Here are just a few.

  • Natural disasters
  • Car accidents
  • Violent assaults
  • Threat with a weapon
  • Emotional abuse
  • Verbal abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Domestic abuse
  • Neglect
  • Acts of violence, such as a bombing or school shooting
  • Diagnosis of an illness that is life-threatening
  • Sexual assault
  • Witnessing someone else go through a traumatic event

Healing Through Strong Relationality

Finding healing from a traumatic event is often impossible without professional help. At our boarding school for girls, we use Strong Relationality as well as different types of therapy to help your daughter not only recover but also change the way she feels about the traumatic event that leads to her PTSD. We’ll help her better understand her emotions and her psychological needs while also helping her catch up at school and learn how to develop lasting friendships.

For more information on what we can do to help your daughter, contact Greenbrier Academy for Girls today.

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