Teens are more likely than any other age group to experience trauma. In fact, trauma is the leading cause of death for teens and those under 45 in the United States. Traumatic events can include car accidents, natural disasters, violence, and more. These events can have a lasting impact on teens, leading to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental health disorders.
Whether your loved one experienced a physical injury, attack, or negative childhood trauma, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms of trauma in teens. It’s also important to know that trauma can have a lasting impact on teens’ mental and physical health. Fortunately, you can get your teen the help they need by visiting a mental health center and counseling services.
What is Trauma?
Trauma is a type of stress that’s caused by a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. Teens who experience trauma may feel like they’re in danger even when they’re not. Feelings of trauma can last for a short time after the event, or they can last much longer.
Some examples of traumatic experiences include:
- Being in a car accident
- Witnessing a violent crime
- Sexual abuse
- Being the victim of abuse or neglect, including physical and emotional abuse
- Experiencing a natural disaster
- Losing a loved one unexpectedly, known as traumatic grief
While some teens might be able to handle these events and prosper later in life, others may struggle with trauma for years to come. It’s important to know that the healing process from trauma is different for everyone. If your teen is struggling with recovering from a traumatic incident, know that they will need time, support, and patience to heal.
What are the Symptoms of Trauma in Teens?
When someone is unable to heal from trauma or struggles with anxiety even after the danger is over, this is known as having Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD for short.
PTSD is a complex mental health condition that can be triggered by trauma. It’s normal for teens to experience some symptoms of trauma after a traumatic event. However, if these symptoms last more than a month and interfere with everyday life, your teen may have PTSD.
The symptoms of PTSD can vary depending on the individual. Some common symptoms of trauma in young adults include:
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
- Angry outbursts or inappropriate emotional response
- Difficulty concentrating
- New onset of eating disorders
- Insomnia or nightmares
- Reckless behavior
If you’re concerned that your teen may be struggling with trauma, it’s important to reach out for help. A mental health professional can help your teen manage their symptoms and begin the healing process.
Teens Hiding Trauma
Unfortunately, many teens struggle with trauma in silence. This is because trauma can be embarrassing or difficult to talk about. Additionally, some teens may not even realize they’re struggling with trauma. In addition, PTSD might also take weeks or months to develop, so your teen may not associate their current symptoms with past trauma.
Sadly, many teens might also be experiencing trauma at home. If your teen is the victim of abuse or neglect, they may be hesitant to speak up due to fear of retaliation. It’s important to create a safe and supportive environment for your teen so they feel comfortable talking about their trauma.
If you’re worried that your teen is hiding trauma, there are some signs to look out for, such as:
- Changes in eating habits
- Sudden weight loss or gain
- Excessive drinking or drug use
- Isolation from friends and family
- Outbursts of anger
- Difficulty concentrating or completing tasks
- Avoidance of certain places or activities.
If you notice any of these signs in your teen, it’s important to reach out for help. A mental health professional can assess your teen’s symptoms and provide the appropriate treatment.
What Causes Trauma in Some Teens?
It’s difficult to understand why some teens struggle with trauma and others don’t after a traumatic event. However, genetic factors and the severity of the trauma might play a role. In addition, existing co-occurring disorders like depression and anxiety can make a traumatic experience worse.
There are many different things that can cause trauma in teens. Some traumas are caused by one-time events, such as car accidents or natural disasters. Others, like abuse or neglect, can happen over a long period of time and can lead to a condition known as complex trauma or complex PTSD. No matter the cause, trauma can have a lasting impact on your teen’s mental and physical health.
How PTSD is Diagnosed in Teens
If you’re concerned that your teen might have PTSD, it’s important to reach out for help. A mental health professional can assess your teen’s symptoms and provide a diagnosis.
There is no one test to diagnose PTSD. Instead, mental health professionals will use a combination of interviews and psychological tests to determine if your teen has PTSD.
During the interview, the mental health professional will ask your teen about their trauma and any symptoms they’ve been experiencing. They may also ask about your family history and whether anyone else has PTSD or another mental health condition.
Your teen might also be asked to complete a psychological test, such as the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist for Children or the Trauma Symptom Checklist for Young Children. These tests help mental health professionals identify trauma symptoms and how severe they are. These tests might look for signs of PTSD that your teen might be exhibiting, such as:
- Avoiding triggers that cause anxiety
- Intrusive thoughts or memories
- Changes in mood or thinking
- Excessive startle response
After the interview and psychological testing are complete, the mental health professional will determine whether your teen has PTSD. If they do, they will develop a treatment plan to help your teen manage their symptoms.
What are the Treatment Options for PTSD in Teens?
If your teen is diagnosed with PTSD, there are many different treatment options available to help them manage their symptoms. Some common treatments for PTSD include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: This type of therapy can help your teen change their thoughts and behaviors related to their trauma.
- Exposure therapy: This type of therapy can help your teen face their trauma head-on. During exposure therapy, your teen will talk about their trauma in a safe and controlled environment.
- Medication: Medication can also be used to treat PTSD. Medications can help reduce the symptoms of PTSD, such as nightmares, anxiety, and panic attacks. Some common medications used to treat PTSD include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and antipsychotics.
- EMDR: This type of therapy can help your teen process their trauma. EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. During EMDR, your teen will talk about their trauma while moving their eyes back and forth. Studies show that EMDR can help with PTSD symptoms.
It’s important to work with a mental health professional to find the best treatment for your teen. Treatment should be tailored to your teen’s specific needs and symptoms. For instance, if your teen needs to avoid triggers, then treatment will focus on helping them learn to cope with their triggers and improve their quality of life. If your teen struggles with heightened anxiety, then treatment will focus on reducing their anxiety and teaching them healthy coping mechanisms.
No matter what treatment your teen receives, it’s important to be supportive and involved in their recovery. You can do this by:
- Listening to your teen
- Encouraging them to talk about their trauma
- Helping them stick to their treatment plan
- Attending therapy sessions with them (if they want you to do so)
- Supporting their sobriety if they have substance abuse issues
- Educating yourself about PTSD
- Finding a support group for families of teens with PTSD
Importance of Treatment for Trauma
Studies show that people with PTSD have a heightened risk of substance abuse, especially if their PTSD is due to traumatic childhood events. Early childhood trauma may also impact brain development. In addition, people with PTSD are at an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors which can follow them into adulthood.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to start trauma therapy as soon as possible. The sooner your teen starts treatment, the better their chances of recovery. For teens with severe trauma, an inpatient mental health treatment center might be a good option.
Inpatient mental health treatment centers provide 24-hour care and supervision. They can also provide a higher level of care than outpatient treatment centers if your teen is also struggling with substance use disorder that coincides with their PTSD.
Get Help For Trauma Today
If you think your teen might benefit from trauma therapy, don’t hesitate to seek professional help from a mental health professional today. Trauma therapy and treatment can help your teen heal their trauma and live a happy and healthy life.