Signs of Trauma in Teens: A Guide for Parents and Teachers
Why you can trust Lightfully Behavioral Health?

Lightfully’s professional culture is designed to keep everyone connected, motivated and nutured. Why is this so important? We believe the way we treat our employees is how we show up for clients – through encouragement, honesty, and compassion.

Clinically Reviewed 
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Think a teen in your care might be processing some form of trauma? Trauma-related disorders that can affect teens include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and dissociative disorders. As a parent or teacher, ensuring the well-being of each teen you care for is a top priority. When a teen in your care experiences trauma, it can lead to challenges for them as well as you. Because people tend to go through a lot of significant emotional changes throughout their teens, it is sometimes difficult to identify trauma in a teenager. Changes that may be clear indicators of trauma in an adult are often masked in teens. To effectively identify signs of trauma in teens, it is important to be aware and vigilant. Learning more about some common signs of trauma can be a great step in the right direction.

Key signs of trauma in teens

  • Behavioral changes — Has your teen’s behavior changed drastically and abruptly? This could be a sign that they have had a traumatic experience. Trauma does not affect everyone in the same way. One person may become less outgoing while another person becomes more irritable. In most cases, though, trauma does tend to cause major behavioral shifts in one direction or another. If your teen’s behavior has recently changed without any clear explanation, it can be a reason for concern. Identifying signs of trauma early can help you offer the support and interventions your teen needs as soon as possible.
  • Sleep disturbances — Trauma often causes sleep disturbances. Like behavioral changes, these sleep disturbances are not the same for everyone. When looking out for signs of trauma, it is important to understand the varied ways it can impact someone on a personal level. A teen who has recently experienced a traumatic event may have difficulty sleeping due to recurring nightmares or insomnia. In many cases, these disturbances are linked. Your teen might have trouble getting to sleep, for example, because they dread having more nightmares. If your teen is having sleep disturbances, you may start to notice more outward signs of exhaustion during the day. Fatigue, irregular naps and frequent yawning are all signs of potential sleep deprivation. Sleeping issues should be addressed swiftly as they can lead to other problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), teens should be getting eight to 10 hours of sleep each night. Fewer hours can lead to issues such as irritability and difficulty concentrating. 
  • Physical symptoms — Has your teen recently started to complain about headaches, muscle tension or stomachaches? These symptoms may not have a strictly physical cause. In fact, symptoms like these are often associated with unresolved trauma. If your teen is experiencing these symptoms without a clear medical cause, they may be important indicators of emotional distress. Physical symptoms may be a sign that you should start a conversation about mental health with your teen. When approaching the subject of trauma, be sure to create a safe space. Let your teen know they are not being judged, and try to show empathy and understanding.
  • Hypervigilance — People who experience trauma often become hypervigilant. This is a state of heightened — even excessive — watchfulness. Your teen may be acutely aware of potential threats in their environment. While a person who has recently experienced might see their increased vigilance as a rational defense mechanism, hypervigilance can actually be harmful. In many cases, hypervigilance causes people to find signs of danger where there are none. This generally causes an increase in anxious thoughts and feelings. If your teen is hypervigilant, they may have difficulty relaxing even in safe environments.

Lightfully Behavioral Health is here to help your teen manage their trauma

Ready to help your teen get the support they need while working through their trauma? At Lightfully Teen, we offer compassionate, whole-person-centered care. Our supportive treatment environment is intended to help teens feel empowered to heal and thrive. With different levels of care geared toward people with different needs, we can help meet your teen where they are.

Lightfully takes a unique approach to treatment called process-based therapy (PBT), which you can think of as a fully personalized framework using the most effective aspects of evidence-based modalities as well as compassion-based and somatic therapies to target the drivers behind mental health disorders and symptoms. With PBT, we can help your teen find relief from their mental health symptoms as they make progress with their trauma.

Change is possible. When your teen is ready to take the first step toward managing their trauma, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of them.

Connect with Admissions

Do I have Histrionic Personality Disorder?

Do I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Do I have Major Depressive Disorder?

Do I have Complicated Grief?

Do I have Self-Harm Behaviors?

Related Content