PTSD: A Disorder Affecting Teens Across the Nation

PTSD: A Disorder Effecting Teens Across the Nation

This project is a requirement of the GOA Abnormal Psychology Course. Using the process of design thinking, a challenge in the world of mental health was identified, interviews and research were undertaken, and a solution prototype was developed. Below you will find information about the identified area of concern and my proposed solution. Please feel free to provide feedback on this prototype, using questions such as “How might we…”, “What if….?”, “I wonder….”, “I like…”, and “I wish.” Keep the comments positive, please. For more information on the process of Design Thinking, click here.

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What is PTSD :

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the development of certain behaviors or symptoms following an event or time period of particular stress or trauma. This can include something seen, experienced, or being threatened.


Behavioral: Reenactment of trauma through play, loss of interest in previously-enjoyed activities, angry outbursts, irritability, behavioral inhibition, reckless behaviors, regression


Physical: Smaller hippocampal volume, altered metabolism in areas of the brain involved in perception of threat, low basal cortisol levels, feeling as though the event is happening all over again, sleep disturbances, complaints of headaches and stomach aches, difficulties with physical contact


Cognitive: Feeling as though the trauma is happening again, trouble concentrating in school, negative cognitive development, altered cognitive functioning, increased arousal and hyper-vigilance, jumbled, out of order recollection of the event


Psychosocial: Emotional numbing, Sadness, Guilt, Low self-esteem, Inability to trust others, Avoidance of memories or situations that trigger memories of the event, intrusive memories flashbacks of the event, nightmares and night terrors, Fears about death, excessive worry

What many people don’t, realize, is how common PTSD is in teens who have gone through some sort of trauma.

15%-43% of girls and 14%-43% of boys will go through at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. Of those numbers, up to 15% of girls and 6% of guys will develop PTSD.

Can you imagine having to go through teenage life, dealing with everyday stresses of school, sports, family, and on top of that having a life altering disorder that seems to go under the radar? Teens out there suffer from this disorder, and they need to feel supported and valid.

The Cause :

Genetic: children have a higher risk of developing PTSD after a trauma if they have a first-degree relative who has had struggles with depression, or PTSD, among other mental health disorders. This risk increases if the child already struggles with a disorder prior to PTSD.

Physical: the way a child’s brain regulates hormones and chemicals in response to stressful situations has an impact. Females are at a higher risk than males.

Environmental: the amount and severity of the trauma plays a role, as well as if the trauma is long-lasting. Longer lasting and repeated traumas are higher risk for PTSD. These can include those involving neglect, physical, sexual, emotional, or mental abuse.


Effects of PTSD on Teens:

Many teens suffering from PTSD do not seek help, because they have a hard time linking the symptoms with the original event or events. Additionally, the teens might refuse help because talking about the event only brings on the symptoms more or reminds them of what happened.

Effects of untreated PTSD can include:

  • Out-of-place sexual behaviors
  • Substance use
  • Alcohol use
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Conduct disorder
  • Self-harm
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Pain disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Extreme aggression
  • Inability to form bonds with others
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Musculoskeletal conditions
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors


This TED Talk, highlighting the struggles that medical professionals go through in order to bring awareness around a topic, mentions underlying tones of teens not getting help. Countless numbers of times adolescents are being misdiagnosed, and don’t have any authority to question their doctors. Because the conversation about PTSD is not being had, doctors aren’t making strides in how to diagnose it and what it means to treat. 


Because medical professionals are essentially pushing aside the issue, I believe that it falls on teens to help each other. I’d like you to think if you know anyone who suffers from PTSD. If your answer is no, think again. You might not realize it, but the numbers show you probably have come in contact with a teen with PTSD and not even have realized it. Teens need to form a sense of community for one another, and these are ways we can get involved :

  • Raise awareness in your community
    • If you’re like me, you’ve never heard PTSD mentioned in school before. Be the one to change that! Discuss the disorder, and its effects with your classmates, start conversations! Not only does this bring awareness, but lets your classmates know if they’re suffering they don’t need to do it alone.
    • Talk to local organizations that offer mental health help and see if they specialize in PTSD. You’d be surprised how many organizations leave this disorder off their list, especially for teens. Nationwide organizations include the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the National Institute for Mental Health, and PTSD United. 



Share this project
  1. April 27, 2018 by Lauren.Kayari

    This is such a fascinating topic! I was shocked to learn that 15% of girls develop symptoms of PTSD. Thanks for choosing and exploring an issue in our society that is not very well known. Additionally, the included TED Talk was very insightful and served as an excellent addition to your page. Great job!

    • April 29, 2018 by Kiley.Herlihy

      Thank you! The statistics were shocking to me, too!

  2. April 28, 2018 by Kim Porto

    This was very informative, Kiley. I really like the idea of kids looking out for and helping each other. The more we can get kids talking about this, the more awareness we will bring to the subject. Nicely done!

    • April 29, 2018 by Kiley.Herlihy

      Thank you! I agree, I think the more conversation around this topic, the less stigma will come with it!

  3. April 30, 2018 by Cassie Delfini

    Hi Kiley! This is a great project, and I know a lot about PTSD. I researched PTSD a lot for my class, and because I was interested in it. I like how you focused on the teens instead of adults because most people think of it as only in adults.

  4. May 01, 2018 by Talia.Cieslinski

    This is a great project! I defiantly learned way more about PTSD than I did before and I think its so interesting the aspect of teens, I didn’t know that many teens especially girls were effected by PTSD.

  5. May 04, 2018 by Ben A

    Hi! Great project! The TED talk was very interesting. Too many people have no understanding of how prevalent PTSD can be. Some still believe it only affects people who have been in wars. I also have never been taught about PTSD in school, and I’m sure many people have suffered from this lack of awareness. Are there any specific programs that you believe could be widely implemented to educate young people? Also, what age do you think is appropriate to begin discussing PTSD?

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