Although medical professionals were inundated with many veteran patients who suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in past wars, it wasn’t until the 1980’s that there was a more formal definition of this illness.
The public’s view of PTSD is that only war veterans are diagnosed with this disorder. Even to this day, if you mention this disorder, most would immediately link it to the war.
In the last decade the definition of PTSD has broaden from the traumas of war veterans to experiences or witnessing of a life-threatening event such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or physical or sexual assault in adult or childhood.
It can also occur for those in the foster care system and adopted children who have struggled with placement and abandonment issues. I could easily add bullying in this category as well.
For many, being diagnosed with PTSD gave validity to their pain and suffering. Society was also willing to be more receptive of this diagnosis. The stigma that comes with so many other mental illnesses and disorders is far less for those who have been diagnosed with PTSD.
Most who have a basic understanding of PTSD associate it with nightmares, depression, stress, anxiety, flashbacks and addiction issues.
Although today we have a better understanding of this disorder, there is still much more to learn. So what are the symptoms and how do we know if our teen or young adult has this illness?
*Please note – the following symptoms can only be determined and diagnosed by a professional psychiatrist who has years of experience understanding and diagnosing PTSD. To find out if your teen or young adult has this disorder, please consult a mental health professional.
There are 3 main categories that a doctor will look for with someone with PTSD.
1. Re-Experiencing/Re-Living Traumatic Events – often triggered from another source (e.g. a sound, a picture) a person can relive that trauma that leaves them with intense stress and anxiety, an emotional outburst or shutdown. Re-experiencing can be so real as if it is happening for the first time.
2. Avoidance and Numbing Symptoms – (Avoidance) to keep away from circumstances, people, smells, places, and sounds that can trigger those feelings of trauma. They will often cut off their own feelings and emotions to protect themselves from a future trigger or trauma. (Numbing) Unable to relate to their own feelings and emotions as well as others due to past trauma. They find it difficult to socialize with others and isolate themselves.
3. Arousal Symptoms – Always alert of their surroundings, they become emotionally aroused when an event triggers the thoughts of that trauma. It can cause insomnia, outbursts of anger or fears, moodiness and difficulty concentrating.
You also have secondary symptoms such as anxiety and depression, loss of interest, detachment, survivor’s guilt, negative thoughts, aggression, reckless behavior, and more. Mental professionals are also beginning to see PTSD associated with other disorders. Again, I reiterate, that in order to correctly diagnose someone with PTSD, they must be evaluated by a mental health professional.
So, is there hope for your teen or young adult who suffers from PTSD? Absolutely! The more those in the mental health field observe and learn about PTSD, the more they are able to help your teen or young adult.
Psycho-therapy is the main tool to help a person be able to live a productive life with medication to help with secondary problems such as – depression, anxiety, etc… Having counsel is important in order for the patient to learn how to use coping skills when an event triggers that past trauma. It is imperative to get that child, teen, and young adult the necessary help they need while they are young. Statistically they do better when these tools are put in place to help them have a more normal life while getting counseling as they age.
It is also important for them to find guidance and prayer through support groups in your church or affiliated church. By connecting with others who are hurting and struggling, someone with PTSD can find hope and faith in their journey of recovery. They don’t have to walk through this alone.
What I have learned on my own are these tips –
1. Speak gently with your child, even when you are upset.
2. If you know a stressful event will be coming up, walk through the different scenarios with your child so that they feel more prepared in how to respond as well as less triggers.
3. Create quiet environments so they feel they have a safe place to retreat.
4. Work with the counselor involved to get the tools your child needs to prevent triggers and to get through a trigger when it happens.
5. Don’t force your child to do something that makes them uncomfortable.
6. Give your child an escape route so that they feel they have choices whenever they are confronted with something they have to do but are uncomfortable in doing it.
7. Don’t be angry at your child when they shut down or don’t respond the way you expect. That just encourages the trauma more.
8. When they have conquered that trigger or event, praise them highly in how much they have grown and improved.
9. Ask your child what areas do “they” want to improve in and work with the counselor for that particular area.
10. Consider medication if it will help in the most traumatized areas so that they can focus on healing for the smaller problems first.
Job was one of the most interesting people in the Bible who could truly relate to those who have PTSD. Experiencing loss after loss, pain, suffering, and much more, he was an example of trusting God with his circumstances and in the end received healing.
What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil. Job 3:25-26 (NIV)
God has provided help for you too. Part of the healing process is to make sure you have all three areas covered; medically, mentally and spiritually. God will give the wisdom that you need to help your child, teen or young adult.
All He asks of you is to put your trust and faith in Him.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici by freedigitalphotos.net