“My Nightmares Aren’t Just About Calculus 101”: Transitioning to College with PTSD

  • Zhanna ElbergEmail author


College students with history of sexual trauma and PTSD are at higher risk for adverse academic outcomes and worsening of their symptoms while on campus. The prevalence of sexual violence on campus further increases their exposure to trauma and risk of revictimization. This chapter describes the case of a young woman with a history of childhood sexual trauma who initially presents to treatment during her junior year of high school. She relapses soon after her transition to college and eventually has to take a leave of absence at the end of her freshman year. Discussion focuses on identifying triggers for relapse of PTSD that are unique to the college setting, outlines strategies for optimum treatment and minimizing risk while on campus, and reviews ways universities have approached sexual violence awareness and prevention. Optimizing transition planning for patients with history of trauma and PTSD is also outlined and discussed.


Post-traumatic stress disorder in college Sexual violence bystander education PTSD triggers on college campuses Sexual violence prevention Safety on campus 


  1. 1.
    Read JP, Ouimette P, White J, Colder CR, Farrow S. Rates of DSM-IV-TR trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress disorder among newly matriculated college students. Psychol Trauma. 2011;3:148–56.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Duncan RD. Childhood maltreatment and college dropout rates. J Interpers Violence. 2000;15:987–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Jordan CE, Combs JL, Smith GT. An exploration of sexual victimization and academic performance among college women. Trauma Violence Abuse. 2014;15(3):191–200.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Read JP, Bachrach RL, Wright AG, Colder CR. PTSD symptom course during the first year of college. Psychol Trauma. 2016;8(3):393–403.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Read JP, Griffin MJ, Wardell JD, Ouimette P. Coping, PTSD symptoms, and alcohol involvement in trauma-exposed college students in the first three years of college. Psychol Addict Behav. 2014;28(4):1052–64.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Gilmore AK, Lewis MA, George WH. A randomized controlled trial targeting alcohol use and sexual assault risk among college women at high risk for victimization. Behav Res Ther. 2015;74:38–49.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Krebs CP, Lindquist C, Warner T, Fisher B, Martin S. The campus sexual assault (CSA) study: final report. 2007. Retrieved from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service:
  8. 8.
    Krebs CP, Lindquist CH, Berzofsky M, Shook-SA B, Peterson K, Planty M, Langon L, Stroop J. Campus climate survey validation study: final technical report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics; 2016.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
  10. 10.
    Banyard VL, Plante EG, Moynihan MM. Bystander education: bringing a broader community perspective to sexual violence prevention. J Community Psychol. 2004;32(1):61–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense. VA/DoD clinical practice guideline for the management of post-traumatic stress. Washington, DC: Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense; 2010.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryJacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University of BuffaloBuffaloUSA

Personalised recommendations