The Impact of Untreated Teen Trauma
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The unfortunate truth is that no one is immune to trauma, including teenagers. It’s important to remember that many different events and experiences can be perceived as traumatic to a teenager. Dismissing teens’ distress as mere “angst” or “drama” can undermine their experiences and prevent them from seeking help. Validating their feelings and providing support is essential for helping teenagers navigate and heal from trauma.

Trauma can impact every aspect of a teen’s life, from their success in school to their future goal planning. That’s why it’s important that teens who experience trauma receive the mental health care treatment and support that they need. One of the best ways to understand the importance of treating the effects of trauma is by seeing the possibilities of the opposite.

We’ll discuss what can occur if teen trauma is left untreated, the types of teen trauma that require professional help and what treatment may look like.

What may occur if teen trauma isn’t treated

Trauma can have a devastating impact on a person’s overall well-being, especially for teens. It can disrupt their development and coping mechanisms needed to navigate the challenges of adolescence. You may think that the negative thoughts and feelings that a teen is experiencing right now will fade with time, but that’s not always the case. What may seem like an insignificant experience to you may have lasting effects on someone else, including a teen.

A majority of teens will experience trauma of some kind before they move into adulthood. A study showed that approximately 61% of adolescents in the U.S. experience at least one traumatic event by the age of 16.

Trauma refers to the emotional, psychological or physical effects that come from any experience or event that was perceived as shocking, upsetting or life threatening. It can also stems from prolonged exposure to a stressful or harmful situation. Trauma can affect every aspect of a teen’s present and future life, including:

  • Difficulty trusting peers
  • Nightmares or flashbacks
  • Difficulty with emotional regulation
  • Low self-esteem 
  • Difficulty establishing sense of self

If those effects of trauma aren’t treated, the negative thoughts, emotions and behaviors can worsen, leading to a teen experiencing:

  • Withdrawal or isolation from others
  • Few, or complete lack of, interpersonal relationships
  • Risky behavior, such as reckless driving or unsafe sex
  • Lack of post-high school planning
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidality
  • Self-harm behaviors

If you fear that your teen is experiencing a mental health crisis after a traumatic event, and they’re at risk to themselves or others, be sure to call emergency services. You can also call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988. 

Types of teen trauma that require professional treatment

While nearly every teen will experience a difficult circumstance, such as their first heartbreak or failing a class, not every hard situation will result in trauma. It’s all about the severity of the situation and how it played out. For example, a breakup from an abusive relationship will likely have a more notable impact on the mental health of a teen than a breakup from a casual two-week relationship.

Treatment for trauma is based on the individual’s response to trauma, which depends on a number of factors including their level of resilience and social support.

Since everyone reacts differently to difficult situations, you should take note of a teen’s behavior following a particular event. In some instances, they may not show signs of trauma right away. But if they show signs of persistent negative emotions, such as anger or sadness, or they’re acting out of character for an extended period of time, it’s time to seek treatment.

Here are types of teen trauma that require treatment:

  • Death of a loved one
  • Witnessing domestic abuse
  • Child abuse
  • Sexual assault
  • Bullying
  • School violence or shootings
  • Racism or discrimination
  • Car accidents
  • Severe sport injuries

How to treat teen trauma 

Now that we’ve discussed why you shouldn’t leave teen trauma untreated, let’s take a look at what treatment actually looks like.

If your teen is showing behaviors that are worrying after a scary experience, you should talk to them about seeking professional treatment. You don’t want to force them into anything, but you can let them know that there are people they can talk to when they’re ready.

The most effective way to treat teen trauma is to start with psychotherapy. A licensed clinical therapist can carry out an evaluation to determine if your teen fits the diagnostic criteria for mental health disorders that can stem from trauma, such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. 

The goal of psychotherapy for teens who have experienced trauma is to help them work through the emotions they’re feeling in relation to the event and develop healthy coping mechanisms to manage potential triggers in the future.

Lightfully Teen can make sure your teen gets treatment for trauma-related disorders

Trauma can have severe impacts on your teen’s overall well-being, especially their mental and emotional health. It’s important to be proactive about treatment, even if they haven’t been diagnosed with a mental health disorder caused by the trauma.

At Lightfully Teen, we have different levels of care that can help your child work through the lingering effects of their trauma so they can look forward to the future as the best version of themselves.

The framework of our Lightfully Teen treatment provides evidence-based, clearly defined, data-driven and whole-person-centered care. Your teen is more than their trauma.

Change is possible. When your teen is ready to take the first step toward treating the impact of their trauma, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team.

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