Is my teen suffering with trauma? How can I help my teen with trauma? PTSD is a mental health condition brought on by trauma.
Someone that has been through a traumatic event or witnessed one, can experience PTSD for a long time if it goes untreated. It can cause a person (teenager) to have high levels of emotional, psychological, and physical distress that temporarily disrupts their ability to function normally.
Teenagers who experience a distressing or frightening event are often concerned by these strong emotions.
- Sexual assault (rape)
- Bullying (cyberbullying)
- Divorce, parent’s separation
- Family discord
- School shootings, witnessing natural disasters (floods, hurricanes, tornados)
- Death of a family member or close friend
- Witnessing an act of violence, bad auto accident
- Domestic violence
- Family dysfunction (abusive parents, alcoholism, drug users)
Even though these reactions usually subside as a part of the body’s natural healing and recovery process, it is important for parents or caregivers to understand the ways in which a teenager manages distress and trauma so they can support and help the young person.
Teenagers can also be deeply upset by local, national, or international tragedies, or trauma that affects their friends. Your teenager will handle trauma differently to younger children or adults. A younger child depends directly on their family, whereas many teenagers look to their peer group for support. To help them, parents need to understand the ways in which teenagers manage distress.
Common symptoms of teen trauma include:
- Isolating themselves, withdrawing from friends and family
- Strong emotions of sadness (depression), anxiety and even guilt and shame
- Difficulty sleeping, insomnia (nightmares)
- Lack of concentration
- Loss of interest in school and their hobbies or favorite activities
- Suicide ideation
- Replaying the event over and over
- Moody, uneasiness, not enjoying things they used to
How to help teen trauma:
If your teen has been through a traumatic experience, seeking trauma therapy is where you should start. It is very important they start to share their feelings and emotions with someone. Trauma therapy gives your teen a way to safely share their feelings, tell their story, and get support. In therapy, they learn coping and calming skills to help them deal with anxiety after a trauma. This makes it easier to talk about what they have been through.
PTSD therapy often includes:
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) activities: to help with thoughts and feelings about the trauma
- Prolonged Exposure (PE) activities: to help someone lower anxiety and learn to safely face things they avoid after trauma
- Eye movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR): combined cognitive therapy with directed eye movements to reduce the power and pain of the trauma. This helps the brain reprocess memory of the trauma. There are therapists who specialize in this type of trauma therapy.
In therapy, teens learn how trauma can affect their thoughts, feelings, and actions. They learn ways to adjust some of the difficult thoughts about the trauma. They learn to let go of any guilt or shame about what happened.
Slowly, teens learn to face things they used to avoid. Therapy helps them gain courage and confidence. They use their strengths to cope and move forward.