Adolescent Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: PTSD Help For Kids

When a traumatic event occurs, children cope differently. Unfortunately, though, a traumatic experience can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental health issue that can affect both young and old. Read on to learn more about obtaining PTSD help for kids.

What Is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs after a child experiences or witnesses trauma. It is most commonly associated with military veterans, but PTSD can affect anyone, even young children.

There are two main types of PTSD based on the type of trauma experienced. “Big T” traumas are major, singular events, while “little t” traumas” are long-lasting and ongoing events. For example, a Big T traumatic event can be living through a natural disaster or being the victim of sexual abuse, while little t traumas can stem from something like bullying and harassment at school or on social media.

Risk Factors for Children

Not all children who witness or experience a traumatic event will develop PTSD, but certain risk factors increase the chance of developing the mental disorder. 

Children with pre-existing mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, or bipolar disorder, are more likely to develop PTSD after experiencing trauma. Similarly, a family history of mental illness also increases the likelihood of developing a disorder.

Residential treatment facility at Meridian.

Mental Health Services for Traumatized Children

If your child has experienced a traumatic event and needs help, the compassionate team of mental health professionals at Meridian is ready to help. Our counselors talk with your child to fully understand their situation and develop a personalized treatment plan.

Boardman Office

8255 South Ave
Youngstown, OH 44512
Phone: 330-797-0070

Treatment Options

When obtaining PTSD support, counselors talk with your child to determine exactly what kind of treatment and support they need. The exact treatment plan depends on the severity of the disorder. Most treatment options include different types of counseling and, in certain circumstances, medication. 


Psychotherapy is more than just asking how the child feels. It’s also known as talk therapy and is one of the most effective treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder. Together, the child and counselor discuss the event and how it has affected them. They work through their emotions and learn coping skills.

Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)

TF-CBT is a well-established and evidence-based approach designed to help children process and cope with the trauma they experienced. The child learns how the trauma affected their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as well as coping skills.

Support Groups

Support groups allow people to talk about their emotions with others who understand, since they are going through similar situations. (Children ages determine whether or not participating in a support group is realistic, though.) Younger children may not benefit from this treatment option because they are still learning how to communicate their emotions. Support groups are beneficial for young people with shared experiences.


In certain situations, medication may be part of a treatment plan for PTSD. However, medication alone does not treat post-traumatic stress disorder. Children taking medication for anxiety or depression symptoms caused by PTSD should also see a counselor.

Trauma Symptoms

Trauma symptoms depend on the child and the type of traumatic event they experienced. In some cases, trauma symptoms may not appear right away and can take months for physical symptoms to present themselves. 

Not all trauma symptoms are easy to spot because they are often emotional. Child trauma affects the child’s sense of safety which may show itself in different ways (for example, emotional outbursts and tantrums). Sometimes children may even revert back to old coping mechanisms that were used as a younger child, such as thumb-sucking.

The most common trauma symptom is re-experiencing the event and having flashbacks where the event is relived over and over again. Flashbacks are distressing for people of all ages, but especially children who do not understand what is happening (or why). 

These symptoms can have an enormous impact on the child’s life and well-being. Children may begin avoiding social situations, lash out at family members and loved ones, have trouble in school, or more. Adolescents suffering from PTSD may also struggle with substance abuse as they attempt to seek relief from their symptoms in any way possible.

As a caregiver, if you spot any symptoms of PTSD, call a mental health professional who can determine the right treatment plan. There are numerous physical symptoms you can look for: 

Physical Symptoms of PTSD

    • Stomachaches
    • Headaches and migraines
    • Sleep problems
    • Bedwetting
    • Increased heart rate
    • Increased sensitivity
    • Muscle tension
    • Anxious feelings
    • Thumb-sucking
    • Symptoms of depression
    • Aggression
    • School troubles
    • Panic attacks
Adolescent struggling with PTSD talking to a counselor.

Meridian HealthCare Can Help

Meridian HealthCare has been helping people live healthy, fulfilling lives for more than 50 years. If you or a loved one is struggling with any type of mood disorder, we’re ready to help as soon as you’re ready to make the call!

What do current and recovering patients have to say about Meridian?

Without the help I got from Meridian, I would be dead. I’m so grateful to them for everything they did. Thanks to Meridian, I got my life back.

They actually care. Meridian helped me with my recovery. Really, they saved my life.

My Meridian counselor was the BEST ever. You should never hesitate to ask if you need help — they are great.

I had a great experience at Meridian. They are the best out there for drug and mental health issues.