When young people are in their teenage years, there are going through a lot of difficult transitions that make life challenging for them. For those who experience trauma during their teenage years, they are faced with even more issues that can sometimes lead to mental health and behavioral problems. The impact of trauma during adolescence can heal over time, but some are left with life long issues that are complicated to resolve even in adulthood.
Teens can be vulnerable to traumatic experiences because they are already struggling with their identity and learning how to cope with the process of growing up. Going through trauma during these years of their life can cause some adverse reactions to how they behave and relate to others. Emotional distress can interfere with their development and they may be dealing with unique problems as they grow up.
With treatment and counseling, it is possible for teenagers who experience trauma to become well-adjusted adults. Those who do not receive care can sometimes begin struggling with issues like substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and other illnesses. Talking about and processing the trauma with a professional is the best way to prevent trauma from causing long term problems during adolescence.
Trauma Reactions in Adolescence
Trauma can come in many different forms but it is typically an event that causes a feeling of threat to our safety or fearing for our lives or the lives of others. Trauma causes great emotional, physical and psychological distress that can be difficult to cope with. This type of distress can disrupt a person’s ability to function normally in their daily life.
It can be very difficult for teenagers to handle the enormous stress that goes along with a traumatic experience. They may be overpowered by strong emotions that they don’t know how to handle what they are going through. They may not have the skills to talk about or work through their feelings in the way an adult may be more capable of.
Teenagers may react in their own personal way to trauma but many will experience a lot of strong emotions including anger, sadness, guilt, and anxiety. They may be very emotional and begin to overreact to minor irritations. They may find it too painful to talk about their traumatic experience or they may talk about it all the time and think about it repetitively.
Trauma can cause teenagers to deal with issues like depression, insomnia and changes in appetite. They may withdraw from family and friends, becoming isolated and spending lots of time alone. Others may react by becoming rebellious, giving up responsibilities or acting out around authority figures.
Healing and Communicating through Trauma
An adolescent that goes through a traumatic experience will need time and care in order to heal so that they don’t end up with mental or behavioral problems. They will need to learn how to communicate their feelings and work through the trauma of the event in their own personal ways. Teenagers may feel hesitant to talk about their trauma because they don’t want to upset anyone, they need more time to absorb what happened or there don’t want to acknowledge the event.
Barriers in communication may be caused by teen thinking people won’t understand how they feel or they may feel confused and don’t understand their own feelings. They may not know how to express their thoughts and intense emotions that feel unfamiliar to them. They can also feel afraid of their own feelings and would rather distract themselves than think about the trauma.
Getting through to a teen and helping them communicate about the trauma can be critical for them to process the event. If they are not ready you may need to give them space but gradually getting them to open up and discuss what they’ve been through can help them heal from the experience. It can take time but eventually, they will start to gain an understanding of what they went through and how to cope with it effectively.
Treatment for Trauma
For teens that have been through very painful and frightening traumatic experiences, it is a good idea to get them some help from a professional. Talking to a counselor can help them make sense of the event and how it has affected them in terms of their emotions and behavior. Coping with trauma can be confusing and overwhelming if you don’t have anyone to guide you through your feelings.
Psychotherapy can be very effective at healing trauma and the earlier the teen is able to get treatment the more likely they will be able to recover without any serious mental health issues. A therapist or treatment center can help teens get back to better health and better communication after suffering from a traumatic experience.