Do The 'Pretty Little Liars' Have PTSD? We Asked A Therapist

Aria, Spencer, Hanna, Emily and Alison have some serious issues to work through.

Things have always been rough for Aria (Lucy Hale), Hanna (Ashley Benson), Spencer (Troian Bellisario), Emily (Shay Mitchell) and Alison (Sasha Pieterse) on "Pretty Little Liars," but "A"/Charles took torment to a whole other level when he literally kidnapped the five girls at the end of last season. By the time last Tuesday's (June 9) episode rolled around they'd all escaped, but none of the them seemed to be handling their newfound freedom very well -- between Spencer's pill-popping, Emily's gun-toting, and Aria's lying, they were all a hot mess of emotion and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Now, since we at MTV News care about these little liars, we consulted licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Andrea Bonior to figure out what they should do to combat their PTSD... since, you know, taking it out on your bedroom wallpaper probably isn't the best option.


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Of all the Liars, Aria seems to have moved on the most quickly, with her photography and newfound devotion to nailing Andrew as Charles keeping her too busy to focus on her own mental health -- which Dr. Bonior says is normal, but not necessarily the best option for her.

"Keeping some structure in your life and trying to find normalcy again in daily routines and relationships is good," Dr. Bonior told MTV News over email. "But stuffing your emotions and pretending that everything is the same as it was (when it's clearly not) is very different, and not healthy. The longer the feelings remain festered inside, the more powerful they can be later on, as you are not working through them. You're also not adapting to the new emotional reality of what you've experienced, so the trauma is more likely to show up later on in nightmares or flashbacks, or in other intrusive ways that are out of your control."


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Hanna, on the other hand, has been feeling her pain immensely -- so much so that she literally tore her bedroom apart. She's also been pushing away Caleb and her mother as they try to help, which, believe it or not, might not be so bad in the short term.

"After a severe trauma, it is normal to push others away to some extent," Dr. Bonior explained. "Many people will feel detached, which makes them uncomfortable opening up about their experience or even showing affection. It's important that these loved ones hang in there and don't push too hard, and keep supporting [Hanna] without forcing [her] to be closer than they want to.

"It sounds like Hanna also had a classic post-traumatic reaction when her bedroom reminded her of her experience. If tearing down her room felt like an emotional release making way for a fresh start, that can be good. But if she keeps feeling urges to destroy other things around her, almost in an explosive way, that could indicate she could use some help."


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Emily "took charge" of her own safety after escaping Charles' lair, but her methodology -- picking up a gun -- could cause more harm than good.

"Anyone who has suffered a recent trauma and gets a gun as a reaction to it should be watched closely," Dr. Bonior warned. "The emotional roller coaster that comes in the aftermath of a trauma can lead to some instability and impulsivity that can be deadly when a gun is present. And while it's not accurate to assume that most people with PTSD symptomology will become violent, they are indeed at an increased risk for hurting themselves, which many people don't realize."


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Spencer -- poor, poor Spencer -- slid back into drug use after her escape, which, as Dr. Bonior explains, is a very common response to trauma.

"People who are in recovery from substance abuse can be particularly at risk of relapse after a trauma," she said. "They may slide into old habits in large part to escape, to numb the experience of the trauma, and to try to detach from it -- or just to try to feel 'good' again, despite the fact that the cycle of substance abuse will definitely leave them feeling worse over the long-term."


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Last but never least, Alison quickly moved on with a much older police officer last week -- which is troubling due to his age, but also because Alison shouldn't necessarily be focusing on a romantic relationship before she sorts out her issues.

"Using sex to try to numb emotions carries some of the same risks of substance abuse," Dr. Bonior concluded. "It is an attempt to feel good quickly, but doesn't last-- and it detaches you from your true emotional experience, and is self-destructive in terms of the damage it can do to your physical health. With sex in particular, the regrets may be significant, especially if the relationship is ill-advised or the power dynamic is off-kilter. Someone may be left feeling much worse afterward, feeling like they opened themselves up to a level of vulnerability they were not really intending to. "