About Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder refers to any severe anxiety that follows a psychologically traumatic event. It is commonly associated with military personnel and others in high risk, high stress professions, but it can follow any event that presents a grave threat to life, health or personhood. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) typically includes reliving the traumatic event through flashbacks or nightmares, as well as intense arousal from stimuli that recall the trauma and an attempt to avoid those stimuli. Symptoms in teens may also include aggression or withdrawal from friends and activities. Diagnosis requires that these symptoms last more than a month and cause significant impairment to normal function. Even “lesser” traumas such a bullying or physical abuse can trigger the stress disorder. Traumatic events that took place at a young age may be recalled later, with symptoms of PTSD beginning long after the fact.
Because Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is primarily event dependent (though there can be genetic factors that worsen the condition), treatment begins with understanding the root cause of the stress disorder. A therapist will help the teen talk through memories of the event and reduce the stress associated with those memories, meanwhile providing comfort and reassurance about ongoing fears resulting from the event. Many studies indicate that group therapy may be more helpful than individual therapy in reducing the effects of post traumatic stress. Medications, including anti-depressants and anti-convulsants are sometimes used, but typically play a more minor role in treatment.
Because of the repeated nature of episodes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, parents of teens who have suffered a traumatic experience are encouraged to begin treatment as quickly as possible. Some studies have indicated that early intervention, including psychological debriefing, can lessen or even prevent the onset of PTSD. Parents of children and teens with PTSD are typically involved in treatment in order to teach coping mechanisms that can help them help their teen.
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