Someone can develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after 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 happen as a sudden, short-term response
(called acute stress disorder) or develop gradually and become chronic
Causes of PTSD include:
physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
fires or natural disasters
senseless acts of violence, such as school or neighborhood shootings
arrests, overdoses, evictions
serious physical injuries or life-threatening medical illnesses
witnessing another person go through these kinds of traumatic events
PTSD also can happen 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.
may startle easily or be overly sensitive to noises, sights, or smells that remind
them of the traumatic event
avoid people, places, things, or activities that remind them of the event
They might need to:
take medicine to treat anxiety
miss class time to talk with school counselors or mental health specialists
have extra time to complete class work
What Teachers Can Do
Students with PTSD might not recognize the link between their symptoms and the
trauma. PTSD usually requires help from a mental health professional experienced in
treating the disorder. It might help 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.