PTSD was a vague term when I was growing up. Military men and women returning from war struggled to be a part of society due to the trauma they encountered. You heard of stories told in which men and women (mostly men), struggled to get by with daily life. Years later, a diagnosis was finally given to identify PTSD in those who served during the wars.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder originally became defined for anyone who suffered trauma from a war or horrific event in their life either through experience or as a witness. Now, in the year 2019, veterans are not the only ones given this diagnosis. Teens and young adults are falling into this category as well. Today PTSD is diagnosed for anyone who has suffered from a car crash, a rape, natural disaster, abuse, etc…. To give you a glimpse of someone who wrestles with PTSD, here are the main symptom indicators:
- Recurring memories, dreams, and nightmares or flashbacks of the traumatic event
- Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event
- Avoiding conversations, places or people that take the person back to the event
- Negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world
- Hopelessness about the future
- Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
- Difficulty maintaining close relationships
- Removes self from family and friends
- Losing interest in activities and lack of interest in activities they once enjoyed
- Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Being easily startled or frightened
- Always being on guard for danger
- Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking or drugs
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia, too much sleep or not enough)
- Difficulty in focusing or concentrating
- Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
- Heavy guilt, blame, or shame on oneself
I can tell you as a parent of a child with PTSD, she hit almost every bullet on this list and then some. There is also a perception that with age, PTSD will somehow resolve itself. That is not always the case. Our daughter was diagnosed around age 15 and six years later, some of her symptoms have worsened while others have eased.
What has truly helped in some of the healing is exploring the foundational triggers of PTSD. Counseling has been beneficial along with various forms of therapy and support groups. Today we are able to understand some of the emotional turmoil she experiences and how to redirect those thoughts to something positive. It is not easy. Although she has come a long way, there is still a lot of hard work to do.
So how can you help your teen?
- Don’t force your child to talk about the event – they will share when they are ready.
- Keep activities and schedules as normal as possible.
- Let your child know that it is not their fault for what happened.
- Expect behavioral changes as a way for them to cope and allow them to express how they feel – e.g. let them sleep with the light or music on if this keeps them calmer. However, if there are more depressive behaviors such as not eating, withdrawn, thoughts of suicidal ideology, etc…, seek help immediately
- Reach out to a mentor that has been through their own traumatic event in life and how they have recovered and heal as a way to minister to your child
- Let your child know that you will always love them, support them, and help them with any crisis they are dealing with
- Seek out specialist in the field of crisis that your child is struggling with.
- Pray for God’s discernment and wisdom on how to help your child in the midst of a crisis and who to reach out to for help.
- Pray daily for your child’s mental healthness that they would find comfort and peace.
As a young adult now, my daughter understands that she will need to make the effort to find healing for her PTSD. As parents, we do not have all of the answers but God does. He can bring about a peace and comfort for their troubles in ways that we as parents can’t. He can also bring restoration with freedom too.
Gaining knowledge about PTSD has had an instrumental impact on me. It empowers not just you as the parent, but also gives tools and answers for your child who has difficulty coping with the emotional turbulence on a daily basis. With all of these things and to cover your child in prayer during the recovery process, your son or daughter will feel strengthened to confront any inner wars within them.