Trauma comes in many forms and can have a long-lasting impact on an individual’s mental health. At an impactful age, teens and young adults are especially vulnerable to developing mental health issues associated with trauma.
What is Trauma?
Trauma is an experience that can leave profound emotional wounds, affecting various aspects of life, including academic performance, relationships, and overall well-being. It can arise from a range of situations, such as physical or emotional abuse, neglect, accidents, loss of a loved one, or exposure to violence. For teenagers and young adults, trauma can be particularly distressing, as this pivotal stage of life involves significant emotional and psychological development.
The Impact of Trauma on Mental Health
Trauma can have far-reaching effects on mental health, causing emotional distress and disrupting daily functioning. Some common symptoms of trauma-related mental health issues include:
- Re-experiencing: Flashbacks, nightmares, or intrusive thoughts about the traumatic event.
- Avoidance: Avoiding people, places, and activities that remind the individual of the trauma.
- Negative Changes in Mood and Cognition: Feeling hopeless, losing interest in activities, having difficulty concentrating, and feeling detached from others.
- Increased Arousal: Difficulty sleeping, feeling constantly on edge or easily startled.
- Isolation and Social Withdrawal: Avoiding social interactions with family, friends, or activities that were once enjoyed.
- Academic Challenges: Poor performance in school, difficulty concentrating or staying focused on tasks.
Signs of Trauma in Your Teen or Young Adult
As parents, caregivers, educators, or friends, being attentive to potential signs of trauma is essential. Signs may vary from person to person, but some common indicators of trauma may be present in any of the following categories.
Emotional & Behavioral Signs
Anger or Irritability
Anxiety or Fear
Fatigue and Low Energy Levels
Unexplained Physical Symptoms (such as headaches, stomachaches, or unexplained pain without a clear medical cause)
Academic & Social Changes
Withdrawal from Friends and Activities
Poor Concentration or Memory Issues
Changes in Coping Behaviors
Changes in Personality
Personality Shifts (withdrawal, agitation, or emotional instability)
Trust & Relationship Issues
Difficulty with Trusting Others
Isolation and Withdrawal from Emotional Connections
Suicidal Thoughts or Self-Destructive Behaviors
Expressions of Hopelessness
Self-Destructive Acts (desperate or impulsive decisions)
- Suicidal Ideation or Attempts
If you or someone you know are thinking about suicide, call 9-8-8 immediately or visit www.988lifeline.org/
When it comes to treating trauma, there can be a variety of treatment approaches depending on the individual and their specific needs. These may include psychotherapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and self-help strategies.
Psychotherapy is an effective treatment approach for trauma that helps individuals process the traumatic event in a safe and supportive environment. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a common form of psychotherapy that can help individuals identify and change unhelpful thought patterns, behaviors, and emotions associated with the trauma.
Therapy as a treatment can help with:
- processing traumatic memories and emotions
- developing coping strategies
- post-traumatic growth
- ongoing support and relapse prevention
- creating a support network
- celebrating progress and success
Medication can also be used in some cases to address symptoms of trauma. Commonly prescribed medications include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or antipsychotics. It is important to discuss a treatment plan with your medical provider to determine the most appropriate medication and dosage.
Making lifestyle changes can help manage symptoms of trauma and promote overall well-being. Some examples of lifestyle changes include:
eating a balanced diet
getting enough sleep
spending time in nature
practicing relaxation techniques (mindfulness, yoga, or deep breathing)
connecting with friends and family
joining groups or activities that bring joy
doing activities to promote self-care (journaling, drawing, painting)