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What Are the Symptoms of PTSD in Teens?

a teen displays symptoms of ptsd in teens

Traumatic events like abuse, natural disasters, and auto accidents leave lasting scars on those who experience them. Surviving one of these incidents during childhood can be especially challenging since children haven’t developed coping mechanisms like adults. As they grow, adolescents and teens may start to show signs of PTSD. If you recognize symptoms of PTSD in your teen, treatment can help them process their trauma and find a better way forward.

Family First provides PTSD treatment for teens at our South Florida treatment center. Our trauma-informed approach utilizes leading-edge techniques to address teen PTSD. Call 888.904.5947 to get help for your teen today.

Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD doesn’t just affect military servicemembers. Anyone can develop it after experiencing a traumatic event. PTSD is a mental health condition that occurs in response to a terrifying or life-threatening event.

Teens living with PTSD will experience life differently. Changes occur in the brain and body as a reaction to the traumatic event.1 Areas of the brain may become more active or less active, producing changes in behavior and thinking. Meanwhile, stress hormones in the body will be altered, affecting how the body responds to stress. Some studies show that individuals with PTSD have similar changes to those who experienced a traumatic brain injury.

Symptoms to Notice: Early Detection is Key

PTSD in teens can manifest itself in three primary ways:

  • Intrusive thoughts, memories, or dreams of the traumatic event. Adolescents may also lean into re-experiencing events through things like video games.2
  • Avoidance behaviors that steer away from things that remind them of the traumatic experience. Teens may isolate or shut down and may not know why. If they haven’t processed their traumatic experience, they may not know what actually triggers them.
  • Hyperarousal, where they always feel on edge or easily startled. This can lead to reckless, self-destructive, or aggressive behaviors like lashing out, substance abuse, or risky activities.

These symptoms may show up immediately after a traumatic event, but it’s also possible for them to develop months or even years later. It’s essential to pay attention to any changes in your teen’s behavior, especially if they have experienced trauma in the past.

You Can Help Your Teen

As a parent, you can play a crucial role in helping your teen recover from PTSD. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of PTSD so you know what to look for.
  • Talk openly with your teen about what they are experiencing and validate their feelings. Let them know that it’s okay to feel scared or overwhelmed.
  • Help create a calm, safe, and predictable environment for your teen. This can help reduce their anxiety and provide a sense of security.
  • Encourage your teen to participate in self-care activities like exercise, journaling, or spending time outdoors.

It’s also important to consider professional treatment. Even though some children are able to process trauma, not all do. Some live with the long-term effects of PTSD. Additionally, teens who experience trauma often begin to show symptoms similar to adults.

How Family First Addresses Teen PTSD

We understand the unique challenges that come with treating teen PTSD. Our experienced therapists use evidence-based treatments to help teens process their trauma and develop healthy coping mechanisms. This includes trauma-informed individual, group, and family therapy, as well as techniques like eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

Clients engage with a personal clinical team that supports their treatment goals and addresses any co-occurring disorders. By checking in with a nurse every morning during treatment and a psychiatrist weekly, we monitor their progress in order to make any adjustments. We may also utilize medication management, but never without parents and teens understanding how the medication works and its side effects.

Reach Out to Family First Adolescent Services

Family First has multiple levels of care that support teens 13–18 who have PTSD. Our boys-only residential program offers 24/7 support at our safe campus in South Florida. The partial hospitalization program (PHP) is co-ed, providing help to boys and girls.

Your teen can process their trauma and find a better way forward—one that they’re confident in. Call us at 888.904.5947 or complete our simple online form now to get in touch with our team and start building a plan for your teen’s well-being.


  1. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience (accessed via PubMed) – Post-traumatic stress disorder: the neurobiological impact of psychological trauma
  1. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – PTSD in Children and Teens