In a 2001 survey 99% of adolescents reported exposure to at least one traumatic event in the previous year. Of these, around 20% developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The study, conducted by the MRC Unit on Anxiety Disorders, was done at nine Cape Town schools involving 1 140 grade 10 pupils.
The most common traumatic event witnessed was violence, followed by robbery and mugging, and witnessing a family member being injured or killed. Other traumatic events included sexual assault (including rape), gang violence and severe bullying. Car accidents, gunfights and other forms of trauma were also common.
The study revealed that:
32% of boys and 35% of girls had witnessed a family member being killed or injured in an assault or motor accident.
43% of boys and 26% of girls had been robbed or mugged.
Almost half the teenagers with symptoms of stress disorder were frequently using dagga or alcohol.
As a result of exposure to traumatic events, most adolescents displayed symptoms such as intrusive memories of the event, nightmares, avoiding reminders of the event, feeling anxious or down, detachment from others, and a restricted range of emotions.
A diagnosis of PTSD is made if these symptoms persist and interfere with functioning.
PTSD was found to be more prevalent among girls, mostly because of sexual molestation or rape. In 85% of the 20% who developed PTSD, sexual molestation, or rape was the trigger.
For more information, contact the MRC Unit on Anxiety Disorders at (021) 938-9229 during office hours.
(Ilse Pauw, Health24)