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Post-traumatic disorder among adolescents is often undetected

Post-traumatic disorder among adolescents is often undetected


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Children and adolescents mostly go untreated

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD for short, is a result of traumatic experiences such as war, rape or natural disasters. An English study now shows that almost eight percent of people in the UK suffer when they reach the age of 18. Most remain untreated and the risk of suicide is high.

Little research has been done into trauma

Little has been researched into trauma in young people and their long-term effects on mental health, more precisely: Studies on the occurrence of PTSD in childhood from Europe and the United States are today considered to be of little significance because the diagnostic criteria are outdated.

New study results

Professor Andrea Danese from Kingś College London conducted interviews with over 2,000 young people from England and Wales when they turned 18.

31 percent had trauma experience

Danese reported in The Lancet Psychiatry that 31 percent of those interviewed had a traumatic experience in childhood: they were exposed to deaths, serious injuries, or sexual violence. Many suffered from “network trauma”, indirect trauma - they were not witnesses themselves, but the harrowing experience happened to someone close to them.

How does PTSD express itself?

The disease manifests itself in recurring nightmares about the event, in avoiding situations that associate the person with the event and in strong feelings of guilt, in which the patient ascribes responsibility for what happened. Symptoms include shortness of breath, cardiac arrhythmia and metabolic disorders as well as permanent fatigue and general feelings of illness.

A quarter of all trauma sufferers

A quarter of those interviewed who reported experiencing trauma showed symptoms of PTSD, and three-quarters of those who had been sexually assaulted.

PTSD in everyday life

Sick people have problems finding a job, staying in a job continuously, the symptoms restrict their academic performance, often they drop out of university or study.

Dangerous compensation

Many sufferers try to alleviate their suffering through alcohol and other substances. As a result, comorbidity quickly arises - in addition to the PTSD, alcoholism or substance dependence are added.

Hardly any treatment

Most of those diagnosed by Danese and her team had never been treated for their syndrome. Only one in five ever had contact with a psychiatrist because of their suffering, and only one in three had even spoken to a healthcare professional in the past year about their problems.

Depression and suicidality

This was all the more alarming because three quarters of all PTSD interviewees had other mental health disorders - the most common was severe depression. Almost half injured themselves, and one in five had attempted suicide - eleven times as much as the unaffected.

Often undetected

Danese warns: Childhood trauma is a matter of the public health system, but disorders associated with the trauma often go unnoticed.

Other disorders associated with traumatization

The consequences of traumatization include PTSD, but also depression, substance abuse, suicidality, the borderline personality disorder, multiple personality disorders, generally dissociative disorders, loneliness, psychoses, bitterness, chronic fatigue and anxiety disorders. Affected people often develop a attachment disorder.

The sooner the better

The fact that childhood disorders remain undetected is a great danger. Because, according to Daneses colleague Dr Stephanie Lewis: The longer the PTSD, the more difficult it is to treat it. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information


Video: Tim Fletchers Talk on Complex Trauma 1 (June 2022).