14Yr Old Boy ADHD and Possibly Post Traumatic Stress?

Updated on November 30, 2008
H.J. asks from Hensonville, NY
8 answers

Hi again, I recently posted a question about my son with regards to his ADHD and authority issues. I got so much helpful feedback that I hoped maybe someone may have some experience with Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD.

For many years my daughter, now almost 16, had a slew of psychological problems including being violent with both me and herself. (this is so hard to write about.) My son not only witnessed the worst of it but also tried to protect me and his sister when she was in this state. I had my daughter in counceling for years and finally with the help of her therapist put her in a 30 day program that did wonders. She is stable, doing well at school and really practising the tools she learned in this group.

As I said in my earlier post, my son who has ADHD is now showing what I believe are unusually intense adolescent reactions to many minor things. Please believe me when I say that he has always been a sweet, obedient child with an amzing compassionate soul. His therapist felt it may be PTSD but the psychiatrist doesn't believe he has all the elements of the disorder to diagnose him with it. After combing through the internet, I have found that a very common symptom for PTSD in teens is unexplainable outbursts of anger. But I do have to say it is the only symptom he has.

I feel so guilty that I couldn't stop this stressor earlier. I was so focused on my daughter and her self injuring that I didn't comfort my son the way he needed it. I always kept up on his ADHD and the school but I feel like I am failing him now because I can't help him control his anger. It's to the point that I'm scared to let him play with his friends or get a job. He told me yesterday that he feels like a rat in a cage.

Should I keep pushing the therapists about his anger control? Should I give him freedom and let him make mistakes? We live in such a small town that everyone knows everything. I would love to hear from anyone who has experiece with teen anger or PTSD.

I love him so much and just want so badly to protect him now because I didn't before.


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So What Happened?

Thanks to everyone who responded to my question. I really did receive so much helpful information. While I agree with the concern of labeling, I am keeping in mind his unique experiences. I don't believe that either his therapist or psychiatrist had any inclination to put him on any new medication. They just want to be sure what they are dealing with. After reading everyone's responses I think that he needs to grow and mature and may need a great deal of help along the way. I believe in him and plan to stand right by his side - understanding (now) that I must give him space.

Concerning my guilt - I need to stay strong and not let it drive my actions. I have been in therapy for years and had a childhood filled with abuse/neglect. Since my children were born I have always said - the cyle of abuse ends right here, with me. I didn't know that children can actually abuse their parents. So when my daughter started having problems I plunged right into the murky depths of my childhood to help myself with the overwhelming feelings. She made it through, I made it through and now my son WILL make it through.

The funny thing is I have never had a young boy in my life. I was raised with all women, all girl cousins. My Dad (who I love with all my heart) was in and out of my life. My son is the first boy in 2 generations on my mom's side. I think I'm gonna do a little reading about these little men!

Thank you everyone for giving me direction and hope. I wish you all the happiest of holidays. And I wish the very best in life for all your children.

More Answers



answers from New York on

Dear H., I read your last post and was moved by your issues and those of your children. I will continue to pray for all of you. I do think you should continue looking for signs of what you think it is. I know we need doctors but there is nothing like the feeling in a mom's gut and heart. Have faith and all will be well. Grandma Mary

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Binghamton on

Would it make a huge difference in his treatment if he were diagnosed with PTSD? In other words, would his therapist do anything differently that you feel would help him more? I sometimes think we get caught up in labels. If you feel you have a therapist who works well with your son and is a good caring partner to you as his mother, I would consider leaving things as they are without pushing any diagoses. But if you feel you need it to get health professional to take him seriously, then by all means get a second opinion.
It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job being his advocate and loving him through a difficult stage.

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answers from New York on

Perhaps he would benefit from the same 30 day program that helped your daughter. I think too much is made of labels today. We cannot ALL be put in a category. But if anyone is a little different "they" feel the need to label the behavior. Instead of worrying what might have caused your son's anger, its important to help him learn to deal with it and channel it into postitive energy.

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answers from Syracuse on

H., hang in there, and good for you for continuing to search.

Here's what I heard in your note -

You did your research, listened to your son (he is communicating! Great! "Rat in a cage" is information, and more importantly, he is being responsible to listen to himself and to not lie to himself. He is also willing to tell you and himself how he feels. Many kids don't have that much maturity (or trust) - and so he can take an active role in his healing, as well as he is reaching out to you for help by communicating. You and he both can be thankful for (and even celebrate) that. Yes they blow hot and cold. That's why they are adolescents. Some have more challenges than others.

You have some key elements of health here that you and he need to be proud of since he is still working in trust with you and listening to himself, no matter how tough the challenge.

I would get a second opinion from someone who has successfully treated adolescent anger issues, preferrably from a referral from a friend who had success with that person, and then work with that new person only if you (and your son) are being heard and helped by the professional. (this applies to anyone, not just therapists) - A good one will allow you and your son to track his progress and include you, teach you what he/she is doing, and train you how to help, with respect and balance in the process. and a good one will remind you to be balanced and be sure to live your own life too so your son has a good role model and you stay in charge of the household and focused on where you are going with your life and your family's goals, not allow your son's challenges to rule by taking on a life of their own, but step out with your family mission and your own personal mission.

The diagnoses tend to smear a little from one label to another when dealing with related symptoms, and sometimes when there's more than one issue, which you may have - You might get several which have similar / same ways of treatment, so like others, please don't get too attached at trying to put "the label" on it.

If your heart tells you the label given by your current professional is simply wrong or incomplete, or the treatment isn't having results on all the signficant issues, that says there's a second professional opinion you need to get.

from what you say, don't be surprised if you find a few things mixed in in the diagnosis and treatment plan (they need to share this with you) - I suspect adolescence role confusion is one of them, and anger (plain old rage) compounded by frustration at failure to meet his own expectations, plus making sense of his confusing responsible experiences in the backdrop of his peers being irresponsible, may have some causes and solutions of PTSD, plus young males also have so few healthy role models so he may be getting out-of-proportion influence by peers and the media.

Many people working on a treatment keep a simple log of every day, write SHORT info on the therapist recommendations and then every day at the end of that day, briefly (no emotion in this, it's just a log, put your emotions elsewhere) note the worst adn best behaviors and your son's stated feelings (keep a separate one for yourself and your feelings) and breifly log any major events (or lack thereof) and be very careful to NOT let this log take on a life of it's own. It's just a list. you are keeping track of things which your memory may not remember well (like an allergy log but much easier and faster) - and then, when your therapist will tell you one thing (like, he's getting better in an area), you need to make sure you know if and WHY you agree or not to continue in that direction, based on recorded history, becaue you live in the results, not your therapist. It will also keep you accountable for your balanced behavior; it's very powerful for many reasons.

So - you betcha gal, listen to your heart, you have great courage, and I hope you seek out a recommended anger treatment specialist for a second opinion - there are funds from many sources if it takes extra money, you have a son who deserves a great life; he needs some understanding and some tools to help weathering his storm, and I am confident they are out there.

You have so much to be thankful for, and so does he for your commitment to him and your family. Make sure you stay aware of and make a little progress on your own life. Know that even just a little bit of focus on your vision of who you want to be (what kind of person) and what you want to do with your life, that will keep your adult balance when kids take a huge fraction of an adult's emotional resources. Keep doing what works best, and you'll get more of it. Hunt for a better approach if something isn't good enough. You'll do great!

Many blessings,


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answers from New York on

You need to let up on the guilt and know you had done the best you could with the past situations. You might want to work on this with a therapist as it seems to be driving you.....

Allow your son some freedom ((within reason)) to be a teenager...It sounds to me that what might be making him as he expressed, "Feeling like a rat in a cage" could be the cause of his anger.

Everyone has to make mistakes inorder to learn from them and grow. We all need a balance in our lives so begin to be supportive of your son in a healthy way. Talk to him about his interests and the things he'd like to get involved with and allow him to go and do.

This doesn't mean it goes without ground rules...be firm about his school work and chores getting done, not doing street drugs, not drinking, safe sex, coming home at the hour you set for him to come home, and knowing who his pals are and where they are all going to be. Ask him to call you if they have a change of plans or if he's going to be late. Allow him to bring his friends home if he wants to...

Talk to him about right and wrong choices....that wrong choices come with conerquences he'll have to be responsiable for...

And keep him in therapy, I'm sure his therapist is helping with his angry issues.

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answers from New York on

Hi H..
I am a mom with 4 children ages 19, 15, 12, and 6. I am still learning new things every day but one thing I know for sure... all teens are angry, confused, and vacillate emotinally due to hormones, immaturity, and configuration of their teenage brains.
Three of my children have learning challenges and ADD is a byproduct of these issues for each. I think it is great that you have counseling for your children but if I were to give you any advice it would be to avoid the PTSD disgnosis and give your son some time to grown- physically, socially and emotionally. It sound as though you all have had some rough patches and God bless you for your good parenting in the face of adversity, but try to remember how resilient kids can be and your son is almost at the age where you might wish to give him a bit of rope to test the waters. Pull it back if he goes out too deep... but give him a chance. My son surprised and amazed me at what a responsible guy I raised when I finally gave him a chance to prove it. The choices he made were sound...not always perfect... but in giving him the chance to fail in a safe way he learned invaluable life lessons and continues to do so in college.
Good Luck and God Bless.

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answers from Rochester on

I agree with the other moms. I hate labels, too. Once a doctor gives a label they treat for that problem only and don't usually look for other conditions that may fit the patients symptoms better.

On the other hand, sometimes it is beneficial to the person with the problem to have a label. They sometimes feel at least they know what is "wrong" with them, instead of always wondering, "What's wrong with me?". My son in law has/had PTSA when he came back from Iraq the 2nd time. He's a Navy Corpsman and saw things over there he never thought he would ever see. He had a lot of problems and thought drinking was the only way to handle them. Fortunately, after several month of being drunk all the time and getting into some trouble, someone in the Navy saw what was happening and got him the help he needed. He is fine now and loving being in the Navy and his life.

It sounds like you are doing all you can do for your son. You have recognized he has a problem and are getting him help and loving him unconditionally. Keep up the good work and keep in mind, if you don't feel the doctors/therapist are helping him, you can always get a second opinion.

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answers from Syracuse on

You cant continue to take their problems onto yourself. This is something they have to deaql with. My son while growing up would get very upset and angry, after this he would become upset with himself and start breaking and smashing his toys ect. a couple of times he would puch a wall ect. He now is 23 and dealing with life well. He was suffering from OPADHD with hyperactivity. or so they said. I would not allow drugs. When he would become angry he was made to face it. And yes there were times he stepped over the boundry lines.

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