The Prevalence of PTSD in Teens

Peer violence, cyberbullying in teens may be common, linked to post-traumatic stress disorder

(RxWiki News) By now, bullying and cyberbullying are on many parents' minds. But just how common are these problems among teens?

They actually may be quite common, according to a new study, and they could be linked to mental health problems like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

On top of that, teens facing these problems may not be getting adequate mental health care, the authors of this study found.

"These results should serve as a reminder to parents, schools and physicians that these problems are prevalent in our community," said lead study author Megan Ranney, MD, of Brown University's Alpert Medical School, in a press release. "This study also highlights that teens with a history of cyberbullying or peer violence are more likely to have PTSD, which is a very treatable disease if properly identified and addressed."

PTSD is a mental health problem often linked to a traumatic event. This event may entail violence or extreme fear. Symptoms include anxiety, flashbacks and nightmares.

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place online, often through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Among the 353 teens included in this study, 46.7 percent reported that they had been cyberbullied. Nearly the same number of these teens said they had been subject to peer violence.

And 23.2 percent reported symptoms that aligned with PTSD, Dr. Ranney and team found.

The teens in this research were studied when they visited the emergency room at Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence, RI. The reason for the ER visits was not necessarily tied to bullying or violence.

And though a large number of these teens reported mental health symptoms that likely require treatment, very few said they had received that treatment within the previous year.

"Existing literature on PTSD in adolescent emergency patients describes its development after an acute assault or motor vehicle crash," Dr. Ranney said. "But, this study highlights the need for improved efforts at more standardized mental health evaluation, possibly even screening for PTSD regardless of the reason for a teen's visit to the emergency department."

This study was published Feb. 18 in the journal General Hospital Psychiatry.

The National Institute of Mental Health funded this research. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
February 21, 2016