How Common Is PTSD in Teenagers?

The adolescent years are often a period of intense emotional upheaval. It’s not unusual for teens to exhibit moodiness and irritability, but in some cases, these behaviors may indicate more serious mental health issues.

One such issue is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which may develop in teens following exposure to traumatic events. If your teenager has experienced trauma, you might be observing PTSD symptoms like flashbacks, nightmares, heightened agitation, emotional detachment, or difficulty focusing in school.

Addressing PTSD in teens can be challenging, but recognizing the problem is an important first step. PTSD can affect anyone who has experienced trauma, including exposure to violence, natural disasters, accidents, or abuse. Additionally, experiences like loss of family members, divorce, or abandonment can also lead to PTSD.

Sadly, children and teens are not spared from such experiences and can develop PTSD. Research suggests that up to 5% of teenagers aged 13 to 18 might suffer from PTSD, with higher prevalence in girls than boys – about 8% in girls and 2.3% in boys. Some studies even suggest that PTSD rates might be slightly higher in teenagers compared to adults.

It’s crucial to treat PTSD in teenagers seriously. While symptoms might peak in the months following the trauma and then decrease, they can persist for years without appropriate treatment. Untreated PTSD in teens can lead to chronic sleep problems, depression, substance abuse, and difficulties in daily functioning. There is also a link between PTSD in teenagers and increased risk of suicidal thoughts.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, it’s important to seek help immediately by contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. In cases of immediate danger, call 911.