Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD is associated with veterans returning from combat. But civilians, even adolescents, can experience PTSD.


A traumatic event can trigger PTSD in anyone. Witnessing someone get severely injured or killed; enduring physical or sexual abuse, assault or robbery or witnessing an assault or crime; experiencing a natural disaster—any of these can cause PTSD. The death of a loved one, the suicide of a friend—any event which causes a severe emotional reaction has the potential for triggering PTSD, not the least of which is abuse.

According to an Atlantic Monthly article, child protective services departments in the U.S. checked up on more than three million children in 2012. More than 680,000 were labeled victims of abuse. The article notes in more than 80 percent of the cases, one or both parents were the abusers. Of the victims, 18 percent were physically abused, nine percent were sexually abused and more than eight percent were psychologically mistreated.

A daunting three-quarters suffered neglect—meaning failure to provide needed supervision, food, shelter, clothing or medical care or to the degree that the child’s health, safety, and well-being are threatened with harm.

One to six percent of children and adolescents who either witness or experience a traumatic event will develop symptoms of PTSD. Early detection is key to treatment. The longer an individual goes untreated, the greater the risk for serious consequences developing later in life.


PTSD symptoms are the same for children as they are for adults. These include:

  • Reliving the catalyzing event but difficulty in actually remembering it

  • Avoiding people and places connected to the event

  • Hyperarousal

  • Emotional detachment or numbness

  • Loss of interest in usual activities

  • Depression

  • Continuous state of agitation

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Impulsive and aggressive behavior

Diagnosis and treatment

A diagnosis of PTSD must include at least one symptom of re-experiencing the catalyzing event: Flashback, nightmares or a fugue state wherein one cannot recall acts performed in a disturbed state of consciousness.

A diagnosis must also include avoidance incidents and various incidents of hyperarousal, increased agitation or aggression. All incidents must occur for at least one month and prove disruptive to the individual’s day-to-day existence.

Psychotherapy is the best treatment for PTSD. Medication can help regulate extreme mood swings but should only be prescribed when absolutely necessary. Studies show teens with PTSD derive significant benefit from Individual and group therapy, particularly peer group therapy. Alternative therapies—art, equine and recreation—provide outlets for self-expression and means for channeling emotional issues.

White River Academy

White River Academy boarding school provides a safe and supportive environment for young men between 12 and 17. We treat substance abuse, behavioral issues and mental health disorders. White River is located at the rim of the Great Basin in Utah. Our challenging academia is balanced by outdoor activities in one of the most beautiful places in the county. Please call 866-520-0905 to learn more about our programs and our school.

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Justin Nielson

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It is natural for parents to worry and have concerns when sending their son away to a residential treatment center. We hope this detailed description of the admission process at White River Academy will answer some of your questions.

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  • Individualized Academics

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