Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop after someone has a traumatic or terrifying event in which physical or emotional harm was experienced, threatened, or witnessed.
People of any age can have PTSD. It can occur as a sudden, short-term response (called acute stress disorder) or develop gradually and become chronic or persistent.
Causes of PTSD may include:
PTSD also can occur after the unexpected or violent death of a family member or close friend, or following serious harm or threat of death or injury to a loved one. Survivor guilt (feeling guilty after surviving an event in which someone died) also might be a component of PTSD.
Students with PTSD may:
Students with PTSD may not recognize the link between their symptoms and the trauma they experienced. PTSD usually requires help from a mental health professional experienced in treating the disorder. It may be helpful for students to talk with family, friends, teachers, or a school counselor, when and if they feel ready.
Students with PTSD need time to begin to feel better and to learn to manage their anxiety. Avoid overloading them with homework or things that can add to their stress. Be supportive and allow students to practice relaxation techniques when appropriate.
Encourage students with PTSD to talk with a school counselor when symptoms arise.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: March 2014
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