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ptsd in children and teens

PTSD In Teenagers: How You Can Help Your Daughter

PTSD In Teenagers: How You Can Help Your Daughter 640 426 se_admin

Childhood trauma can have a profound impact on adolescent’s development, resulting in negative effects on physical growth, psychological development, mental health, and in severe cases, it can be the catalyst for developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Experiencing childhood trauma has become more widespread with many research studies claiming that over 50% of teens have been exposed to trauma at some point in their lives.

A 2013 research study of 6,483 teens found that 61% of teens had been exposed to at least one potentially traumatic event in their lifetime, including interpersonal violence such as rape, physical abuse, or domestic violence, injuries, natural disasters, or the death of a close family member. Of these teens, 19% had experienced 3 or more of these traumatic events, and nearly 5% had experienced PTSD under the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria. Another study indicates that that as many as 16% of adolescents exposed to trauma may develop PTSD.

Research has shown that PTSD can increase vulnerability to psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, psychosis, as well as several physical problems such as arthritis, cardiovascular disease, lung disease, and cancer, and cognitive problems such as brain development and emotional attachment. Because of the potential damages of PTSD, it’s essential to understand the causes of PTSD, recognize its symptoms and impacts, and get your teen treatment as soon as possible to aid in her recovery.

Causes of PTSD in teens

Post-traumatic stress disorder is defined as a condition brought on by exposure to a traumatic event. As discussed, the majority of children will experience some type of traumatic event in their lifetime, but children with PTSD don’t bounce back from this trauma. Instead, they develop harmful behavioral patterns that can be debilitative without treatment.

There are many risk factors associated with the likelihood of developing PTSD as a teenager. Research indicates that the two groups of adolescents that are most likely to have been exposed to trauma in their lifetime are those who did not have both biological parents in the home and those who had pre-existing mental and behavioral disorders such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiant disorder.

In a study that found 4.5% of teens had experienced PTSD in their lifetimes, there were many risk factors. One of the greatest risk factors was being a female; females had a 7.3 percent lifetime prevalence of PTSD compared to only 2.2 percent of males. Another risk factor included interpersonal violence as PTSD was found in 39% of teens who had been raped and 25% of teens who had been physically abused by a caregiver. Lastly, those who had underlying mood disorders such as anxiety and depression were also more likely to be at risk for developing PTSD.

Beyond risk factors, there are many known causes for developing PTSD in children and adolescents. The causes can be broken up into two categories: interpersonal traumas and non-interpersonal traumas. Interpersonal trauma includes events such as violent assaults, rape, physical or sexual abuse, school or neighborhood shootings, and military combat.

A 2020 study indicates the link between interpersonal traumas and PTSD can be explained by social information processing theory. Those who have experienced violent trauma are predisposed to hostile attribution bias which increases the perception of threats and causes heightened stress reactivity. Simply put, those who experience violence are more likely to perceive violence in all settings which can cause them to relive their traumas and be fearful of various environments.

The other type of trauma that can result in PTSD is non-interpersonal trauma and this includes events such as car accidents, natural disasters, being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, and going through the death of a loved one. A 2019 study conducted on the impacts of a 2008 earthquake found that up to 10% of children exposed to the earthquake had developed PTSD, and that their PTSD symptoms were heightened around the anniversary of the earthquake each year.

Even though PTSD can develop through various types of trauma, there are some similar symptoms you can look for if you’re concerned your daughter is struggling with post traumatic stress disorder.

Symptoms and impacts of PTSD on teens

For teens struggling with PTSD, they often feel like they are unable to escape the impact of the trauma they have experienced. Constant reminders of the trauma they went through can make it extremely challenging to go through day-to-day life, especially if they are unable to express what they are feeling to trusted adults. Here are some common symptoms to look for in teens experiencing PTSD:

  • Avoidance of situations – Teens with PTSD will often avoid situations, environments, and people that could cause them to remember the trauma they’ve experienced. They may also avoid talking about what happened so they don’t have to be reminded of it.
  • Reliving the trauma – Those experiencing PTSD will often have intense nightmares, flashbacks, or disturbing mental images about the trauma. Wanting to avoid the nightmares can also lead to a disruption in their sleeping patterns or cause insomnia
  • Anxiety – People with PTSD can experience extreme anxiety or nervousness. This can take the form of being easily startled, on edge, jumpy, irritable, or tense. This can be brought on by high levels of stress and cortisol in the body.
  • Developmental Regression – Some children who experience PTSD may regress to earlier, more childlike behaviors. This can include wetting the bed, becoming overly clingy to parents, developing separation anxiety, or even forgetting how to speak.
  • Emotional numbness – Teens struggling with past trauma, often feel numb and detached from the people and events in their lives. This detachment can also cause teens to view the world more negatively and hinder their ability to trust anyone. Research indicates this is because the brain overproduces some hormones that numb the senses during stress.
  • Acting impulsively – Teens with PTSD are likely to display self-destructive behavior and guilt. This could be in the form of substance use and abuse, engaging in sexual behavior, or engaging in situations that could put themselves and others in harm’s way.

In addition to the symptoms teens may display, there are many physical, mental, social and emotional impacts that adolescents with PTSD can experience. Due to the hypervigilance, change in sleeping patterns, and increased stress that individuals with PTSD experience, they can also experience negative physical health impacts. Common effects include back pain, migraines, stomachaches, muscle tension, and other body aches. A 2015 study found that childhood trauma can even cause long term changes in their body’s immune functioning which can cause potentially life threatening conditions such as type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

PTSD in adolescents can also have extremely adverse impacts socially and emotionally. A 2017 study found that those who had experienced PTSD and trauma were likely to misidentify sad and angry faces as fearful. Understanding and recognizing facial expressions is crucial for social functioning and communicating emotions, so this impairment can hurt an individual’s ability to connect with others and can be indicative of low empathy and impaired affective bonding.

Sometimes PTSD can occur in a particularly severe form called Complex PTSD. This type of PTSD is most commonly found in those who have experienced repeated sexual abuse in childhood. A study on Complex PTSD found that in combination with reliving the trauma, these individuals undergo massive personality changes that cause them to struggle with relationships and prohibit them from trusting, developing intimacy, and cultivating a positive sense of self worth.

For children and teens struggling with PTSD, early and consistent intervention can make a world of difference in their healing journey.

How you can help support your daughter through her PTSD

There are many options for treatment if your daughter is experiencing PTSD, and certain types of talk therapy, such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, have been proven to significantly reduce the symptoms of PTSD. There are also many steps you can take at home to help your daughter along her recovery journey. Try these strategies to help your teen with PTSD:

Research the causes and effects of PTSD – It can help to gather as much information as possible about PTSD to determine the root of the cause in your daughter. The more information you have, the more able you will be to provide her with the best course of treatment.

Learn to recognize PTSD episodes – One of the scariest impacts of PTSD on teens is reliving a flashback of the event, in which they feel like they are experiencing the trauma all over again. Knowing what to look for during these episodes can help you understand what is going on, what to expect, and what you can do to help in the moment.

Let them know they are not alone – As many as 16% of girls will experience some sort of PTSD in their lives and it can be helpful to know others have experienced this to help reduce alienation from others. Seeking out a PTSD support group can provide an opportunity to connect with others who have experienced similar situations.

Learn triggers – Many PTSD episodes are triggered by events, images, and sounds that remind teens of the original trauma they experienced. By knowing these triggers, you can help your teens avoid the kinds of situations that might cause a PTSD episode.

If your teen is struggling with childhood trauma and PTSD, a residential program like Solstice East, can provide her the holistic and restorative therapy she needs to heal.

Solstice East can help

Solstice East is a groundbreaking residential treatment center for girls ages 14-17 that specializes in treating trauma. We utilize cutting edge neurological research to help us better understand the impact of trauma on the developing brain and to implement the most effective methods for its treatment. We believe that a holistic approach is an effective way to help young women truly heal from trauma.

Instead of focusing on one specific problem area or issue, we treat the entire person mind, body, and spirit. We believe that evidence based therapeutic techniques such as EMDR, neurofeedback, somatic experiencing, Trauma-Focused Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and gender specific treatment are essential to your daughter’s healing process.For more information about how Solstice East can help, please call 828-484-9946.

coping skills for grief and loss

Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms for Dealing with Grief and Loss

Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms for Dealing with Grief and Loss 2560 1707 se_admin

Grief and loss are a part of every person’s life. At some point, we will lose a pet, or a friend, or a loved one. And while it is natural and normal, that does not make it any easier when it happens. 

Grief is especially challenging for young people. They are experiencing loss for the first time, and with no previous experience of dealing with it, they may not know what to do. The sadness can feel overwhelming and they fall into unhealthy coping mechanisms. 

Common Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms 

While each person deals with grief differently, there are some common coping mechanisms that present themselves during loss. Unhealthy coping mechanisms may include: 

  • Denial- refusing to acknowledge their loss or grief.
  • Risk-taking behavior- this could include acting without thought of consequences and acting out through unhealthy relationships.
  • Substance abuse- turning to alcohol or drugs to numb their feelings.
  • Over or under eating- using food as a tool to numb or distract.
  • Obsessing/Controlling- since they could not control their loss, they may seek to control what they can. 

There can be many factors, including low self-esteem, or a history of untreated anxiety and depression that can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms. There may be a sense of emptiness or lack of safety that makes their loss feel intolerable and this inability to tolerate the emotions leads to those unhealthy behaviors. 

Healthier Tools

There is no “right” way to deal with loss. Part of dealing with grief is understanding that it affects different people in different ways. Young people dealing with grief need to understand that the feelings they’re experiencing are okay and that there is no such thing as normal when it comes to loss. It might take one person a few weeks to start to feel lighter, while others require much more time. It is important to give themselves some patience and grace as they move through their stages of grief. Acknowledging their pain and seeking out help can aid them to begin to deal with their loss. There may be good days and hard days, but it is all a part of processing their emotions. Grief counseling can also be an effective tool for working through their pain. An experienced therapist can help them work through intense emotions and overcome obstacles to their grieving.

Solstice East Can Help

The Solstice mission is to support adolescents, and their families, in developing excellence in relationships, influence, character, and health throughout their life journeys. Through relationship-based programming, we help students restore and rebuild healthy, trusting relationships with their families, peers, teachers, and staff.

The process of internal growth and change is facilitated by a succession of interventions aimed at helping our girls become young women of character. The process of developing and clarifying a positive value system, and learning to allow these values to drive their choices and behavior is a powerful process of growth. It is this process that drives internal growth, and once solidified, remains constant and growing long after graduation and into adulthood. For more information please call (828) 414-2980.

From Generation to Generation: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in Teenagers

From Generation to Generation: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in Teenagers 150 150 se_admin

According to a recent article by Psych Central, a recent study has found that post traumatic stress disorder symptoms in teenagers may be transmitted to children of holocaust survivors. New research has found that both Holocaust survivors and their offspring show similar genetic changes at the same site, a stress-related gene that has been linked to post traumatic stress disorder symptoms in teenagers.

It has not been unknown that the children of traumatized people are at increased risk for post traumatic stress disorder symptoms in teenagers, as well as mood and anxiety disorders. This new research suggests that paternal trauma is a relevant contributor to offspring biology.

The Research

One of the most intensively studied groups to be studied in regards to post traumatic stress disorder symptoms in teenagers caused by parent trauma, is the group of children of survivors of the Nazi concentration camps. From this work, researchers have been growing evidence and their data by evaluating other studies that have been done.

The researchers examined blood samples of 32 Holocaust survivors and 22 of their adult children for methylation of intron 7, a specific region within the FKBP5 gene. The researchers also studied Jewish parent-offspring pairs as a control group.

The analysis revealed that both Holocaust survivors and their offspring show genetic changes at the same site of FKBP5 intron 7, but in the opposite direction: Holocaust survivors had 10 percent higher methylation than the control parents, while the Holocaust offspring had 7.7 percent lower methylation than the control offspring.

The Meaning of this Research

Researchers state:

“The observation that the changes in parent and child are in opposing directions suggests that children of traumatized parents are not simply born with a PTSD-like biology [post traumatic stress disorder symptoms in teenagers]. They may inherit traits that promote resilience as well as vulnerability.”

This research highlights the need for parents to be more aware of their children’s mental health if they, as parents, have suffered a traumatic experience in their lifetime. If you or your child are dealing with post traumatic stress disorder symptoms in teenagers, there are programs available that can help.

Solstice East can help

Solstice East is a residential treatment center for girls, ages 14 to 18, grappling with teen depression, anxiety, trauma, and other emotional or behavioral issues. We strive to help our girls lead themselves back onto a path of health and happiness.

For more information about how Solstice East can help your teen, please call 828-484-9946.

Trauma Treatment: Don’t Let Memories Haunt You

Trauma Treatment: Don’t Let Memories Haunt You 150 150 se_admin

Avoid Memory Distorting Through Trauma Treatment

Our memories represent our paths through life that have made us who we are. They are an essential part of shaping our personality, emotions, and relationships.

While our memories are not perfect reconstructions of our past, they provide us with an understanding of our life, personal history and growth.Unfortunately, there are times in our lives when we experience a traumatic event and need to seek trauma treatment. Experiencing a traumatic event can be detrimental to a person’s mental well-being. They often haunt our memories, making it difficult to live a happy and healthy life. A recent article by Psychology Today explains memory distorting and how it can increase post-traumatic stress and create poor mental health.

Memory Distortion

Processing traumatic events can lead to actively imagining new details or experiencing intrusive thoughts. This can then lead to developing a familiarity to new details which becomes so dominate people begin to recognize them as a part of their own genuine memory. In result to this, people often end up experiencing a growth in traumatic memories. This is memory distortion. Talking about trauma through trauma treatment can reduce memory distortion.

Ph.D. Nathan Lents states that “traumatic memory distortion appears to follow a particular pattern: people tend to remember experiencing even more trauma than they actually did. Due to this, it can result to a greater severity of symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).” Over-remembered trauma can be a hindrance on a person’s life. Without trauma treatment, it is suggested to lead to a decrease in mental health.

The Theory Behind PTSD and Memory Distortion

Psychology Today believes that PTSD memory distortion may be caused by a flood of emotion and cognitive disagreement that evolve from traumatic events. This flood of emotions overloads the brains processing center necessary to stimulate memory formation. Without the brains ability to create this distinct stimulation, the brain attempts to close the gap with additional elements, real or imagined. If you are suffering from a recent trauma, there are multiple trauma treatments available to help.

Solstice East can help

Solstice East is a residential treatment center for girls, ages 14 to 18, grappling with anxiety, trauma, depression, and other emotional or behavioral issues. We strive to help our girls lead themselves back onto a path of health and happiness.

For more information about Solstice East, please call 828-484-9946!

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 150 150 se_admin

Stress is defined as an automatic physical and mental response to a situation that is perceived as dangerous or threatening to personal comfort. The natural defense of the body is a stress response where the “fight-or-flight-or-freeze” mode is activated. This releases hormones that keep the body alert in order to react quickly, this can be lifesaving. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs after a traumatic event, when the body and mind get stuck in the fight/flight/freeze mode.

“Five out of 10 women experience a traumatic event [in their lifetime].”– U.S. Dept. of Veteran Affairs

When an antelope is chased by its predator, and then escapes, that experience is traumatic. For a time following, the antelope will shake uncontrollably in order to release the stress hormones that were released during the fight/flight/freeze mode. Because it is able to release the stress response, the antelope does not experience post-traumatic stress.

“Because of factors like cultural conditioning, women also more likely to blame themselves for their traumatic experience.” – Caitlin Flynn, Bustle

Post-tramatic stress disorder occurs within months or years

Unfortunately for humans, we do not have the mechanism to shake off a traumatic experience right away afterward. As a result, the trauma is locked inside until it can be dealt with and released gradually. According to WebMD, individuals typically recover from PTSD within six months of onset, though it is different for everyone.

Symptoms typically start occurring within three months, post trauma, and according to WebMD, for some it takes years. The symptoms are separated into three categories: reliving, avoiding and increased arousal. If any occur continuously for a month or more, it is considered PTSD.

“Sexual abuse is more likely to cause PTSD than other nonpersonal events a woman faces in her lifetime.” – Dr. Dennis

  • Reliving: This includes flashbacks, nightmares and intrusive thoughts. These symptoms cause the re-experiencing of the trauma including the occurrence of physical symptoms of stress such as increased heart rate.
  • Avoiding: Avoidance of any reminders of the event. Including avoiding people, places, situations or anything that triggers a memory. This can lead to loss of interest in certain activities or isolation from family and friends.
  • Increased arousal: According to helpguide.org, these symptoms can include irregular sleep patterns, irritability, outburst of intense emotions like anger, hyper-alertness and begin easily startled or “jumpy.”

There is hope. There is help

PTSD can hurt anyone at any time. Traumatic events are unpredictable atrocities that steal the sense of security and safety from the core being of survivors.

Events, such as the recent tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina, leave an entire community of people grieving, lost and traumatized. In the midst of such pain and hardship, there is hope; there is help. Whether from an act of violence, a great loss, or abuse; your family is not alone in the struggle, your daughter is not alone.

“Women are more than twice as likely to develop PTSD than men.” – U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs

She is not alone

If you have a 14 to 18-year-old daughter, who you believe has PTSD, getting her professional help and support is crucial for her recovery. Solstice East is a residential treatment facility that works to help young girls with post-traumatic stress and co-occurring disorders. Through effective programs, treatment and the holistic, mind-body-connection philosophy, Solstice East can help your daughter heal from trauma and become herself again.

Call Solstice East today, at 828-484-9946, for more information on how we can help your daughter combat post-traumatic stress or other trauma-related issues.