Adolescent Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Crittenton offers treatment for conditions like adolescent post-traumatic stress disorder based on evidence-based therapy interventions to ensure the best outcomes for our patients.

Trauma Smart®

Developed by the experts at Crittenton Children’s Center, Trauma Smart is a program founded on evidence-based interventions that helps children and the adults who care for them effectively address the negative impact of violence and trauma that can cause post-traumatic stress disorder. Trauma Smart provides the appropriate mental health treatment to help children concentrate in school and develop social and emotional resilience to carry them into adulthood.

Treating Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with Therapy

Treating Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with Therapy

Man talking to therapist.

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder. It can happen after you go through an extreme trauma, such as a car crash or combat. With PTSD, you constantly relive the trauma through nightmares, intrusive memories, and flashbacks. Therapy (also called counseling) is a very helpful treatment for PTSD. When done by a trained professional, therapy helps you face and learn to manage your problem. It may take some time before you notice how much therapy is helping, but stick with it. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches you to manage anxiety by helping you understand how you think and act when you're anxious. Research has shown that this treatment works very well for anxiety disorders including PTSD. CBT is run almost like a class, with homework and skill-building activities that teach you to cope with anxiety step by step. It can be done in a group or one-on-one, and often takes place for a set number of sessions. CBT has 2 main parts:

  • Cognitive therapy. This helps you identify the negative, irrational thoughts that occur with your anxiety. You'll learn to replace these with more positive, realistic thoughts.

  • Behavioral therapy. This helps you change how you react to anxiety. You'll learn coping skills and relaxation methods to help you deal with anxiety in a whole new way.

Other forms of therapy

Other therapy techniques may work better for you than CBT. Or you may move from CBT to another form of therapy as your treatment progresses. You may meet with a therapist by yourself or in a group, depending on your needs. Therapy can also help you work through problems in your life that may be making your anxiety disorder worse. This includes things such as drug or alcohol abuse.

Getting better with time

Therapy will help you feel better and teach you skills to help manage anxiety long-term. But change doesn't happen right away. It takes a commitment from you. And treatment only works if you learn to face the causes of your anxiety. So, you might feel worse before you feel better. This can sometimes make it hard to stick with it. Remember: Therapy is a very effective treatment. The results will be worth it.

Resources

Anxiety and Depression Association of America www.adaa.org

CDC www.cdc.gov

National Institute of Mental Health www.nimh.nih.gov

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry www.aacap.org

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

What is PTSD?

You may have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), if you’ve been through a traumatic event and are having trouble dealing with it. Such events may include a car crash, rape, domestic violence, military combat, or violent crime. While it is normal to have some anxiety after such an event, it usually goes away in time. But with PTSD, the anxiety is more intense and keeps coming back. And the trauma is relived through nightmares, intrusive memories, and flashbacks. These can be vivid memories that seem real. The symptoms of PTSD can cause problems with relationships and make it hard to cope with daily life. But it can be treated. With help, you can feel better.

What causes PTSD?

PTSD may be triggered by something that:

  • Happened to you
  • Happened to someone close to you
  • You witnessed

Examples include:

  • Serious accidents, such as car or train wrecks
  • Natural disasters, such as floods or earthquakes
  • Manmade tragedies, such as bombings, a plane crash, shooting
  • Violent personal attacks, such as a mugging, rape, torture, being held captive, or kidnapping
  • Military combat
  • Abuse in childhood

What are the risk factors for PTSD?

There are many risk factors for developing PTSD. Recognizing and addressing them can help prevent PTSD, when possible. These risk factors include:

  • Lack of family or social support resources
  • Repeated exposure to traumatic circumstances
  • Personal history of trauma or of an acute stress or anxiety disorder
  • Family history of mental health disorders
  • Personality traits of vulnerability and a lack of resilience
  • History of childhood trauma
  • Personality disorder or traits including borderline personality disorder, paranoia, dependency, or antisocial tendencies

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

Symptoms of PTSD last more than a month. They may include:

  • Unwanted or intense memories of a trauma
  • Nightmares
  • Vivid memories or flashbacks that make you feel like you’re reliving the event
  • Feeling worried, fearful, anxious, or suspicious
  • Strong reactions when you’re reminded of the trauma (or sometimes for no obvious reason at all)
  • Intrusive thoughts about combat, death, or killing
  • Feeling disconnected or isolated, as if you’re “not yourself”
  • Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
  • Feeling agitated, tense, on edge, or easily startled
  • Bursts of anger or irritation
  • Problems concentrating
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep

The symptoms of PTSD may look like other mental health conditions. Always consult your health care provider for a diagnosis.

How is PTSD diagnosed?

Not every person who goes through a trauma develops PTSD, or experiences symptoms at all. PTSD is diagnosed if your symptoms last more than one month. Symptoms usually begin within 3 months of the trauma, but can also start months or years later.

How long this illness lasts varies. Some people recover within 6 months, others have symptoms that last much longer.

How is PTSD treated?

Specific treatment for PTSD will be decided by your healthcare provider based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the disease
  • Your tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the disease
  • Your opinion or preference

You may think that asking for help is a sign of weakness. In fact, taking action to make your life better takes a lot of courage. Talking about a trauma can be hard, but it can make a big difference. The main treatment for PTSD is counseling. You’ll work with a trained therapist to learn new ways to cope with your experiences. Medicine may also be prescribed to help with anxiety, depression, or sleep. Most people with PTSD have a combination of counseling and medicine for treatment.

Types of Counseling

Counseling is done in a safe environment, either one-on-one or in a group. Group therapy is often done with other people who have been through similar events. PTSD is often treated with one or more of the following forms of counseling. Talk with your healthcare provider about your options so you can decide on a counseling format that works for you.

  • Cognitive processing therapy. This type of therapy helps you cope with negative thoughts related to the trauma. You’ll work with a therapist to better understand how you think and feel about what happened. And you’ll learn skills to help you cope with the trauma. CPT won’t make you forget about what happened. But it can make the memories easier to live with.
  • Prolonged exposure therapy. This helps you deal with thoughts and situations related to the trauma in new ways. You’ll learn breathing and relaxation techniques to calm yourself when you encounter triggers. With your therapist’s help, you may enter situations that remind you of the trauma. You’ll learn to lessen your reactions over time, which can help with avoidance. You’ll also talk about the trauma to help you gain control over how you think and feel about it.
  • Other therapies. Other therapies for PTSD include: coping skills training, acceptance and commitment training, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), family counseling, and PTSD psychoeducation.

Key points

  • PTSD is a mental health condition in which a person has experienced a traumatic event that causes long-term stress.
  • The traumatic event can be experienced directly, witnessed, or due to repeated exposure to shocking events. A person can also have PTSD when trauma occurs to a close friend or family member.
  • The person may experience flashbacks, avoid stressful situations, or withdraw emotionally.
  • Diagnosis is made by a healthcare provider when the symptoms last longer than one month.
  • Treatment involves medicine and therapy to decrease the emotional effects of the disorder and increase coping skills.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your healthcare provider tells you.
  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your healthcare provider gives you.
  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
  • Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
  • Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
  • If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your healthcare provider if you have questions.

Understanding Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Children

Understanding Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Children

Children can endure great sorrow and even trauma in their lives. For some children, the distress of certain events may be too much to bear. As a result, they may develop symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Fortunately, there is hope for children who suffer trauma. Ask a trusted counselor or healthcare provider for help.

Mother consoling daughter, Daughter looking very sad.

What is posttraumatic stress disorder?

Posttraumatic stress disorder may follow a severe trauma. This may be something the child experiences directly. It may also be an event your child sees or hears about. Even violent movies or TV programs can have a traumatic effect. Symptoms of PTSD often appear a few weeks after the trauma. But sometimes they may occur months, or even years, later.

Symptoms of PTSD in children

If your child has PTSD, he or she may have:

  • Terrifying nightmares or “flashbacks” about the event. Flashbacks are vivid memories that seem as real as the trauma itself.

  • A fear of people or places connected with the event. Your child may also seem withdrawn and unfeeling.

  • Angry outbursts. Your child also might have trouble sleeping or concentrating, or seem on edge. He or she might complain of headaches or other health problems.

  • Reactions to trauma cues that re-trigger the event. Sights, sounds, people, smells, and places that remind the child of the event can result in repetitive play and a reenactment of the traumatic event or themes of the traumatic event (such as someone dying).

Treating PTSD

Children with PTSD can be greatly helped by special types of individual and group therapy as well as by certain medicines. A form of therapy called trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy is effective in both individual and group settings for treating PTSD in children. Children with PTSD can benefit from certain other forms of therapy also. Being with other children may make your child feel less alone and will help your child work through his or her pain. Medicines may help control symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, and depression associated with PTSD and help the child live a more normal life.

What you can do

You can play a large part in your child’s healing process. Accept your child's emotions and encourage your child to share his or her feelings with you or a trusted professional. Offer your love and support. Seek and maintain professional mental health support for your child. Recovery may take some time. But don’t lose hope. With help, your child can look forward to a full, happy life.

Children are at risk for PTSD after the following:

  • A rape or sexual assault

  • A car accident or plane crash

  • Physical or mental abuse

  • Natural disasters such as earthquakes or floods

  • The sudden death of a parent or other loved one

Saint Luke's Hospital of Kansas City Crittenton Children's Center

Saint Luke's Hospital of Kansas City Crittenton Children's Center treats the mental and behavioral health care needs of children, adolescents, and families – in Kansas City and across the region.