It’s important to immediately assess a teen’s psychological health if he or she has recently experienced trauma. Typically, a traumatic event is any occurrence in which a teen might have feared for his or her life. Examples include a car accident, witnessing violence, being involved in a natural disaster, witnessing domestic violence, abuse from a parent or another adult, and/or bullying. Other examples of trauma may be if your teen has experienced a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or tornado. Even consistent neglect can lead to the effects of trauma on a teen’s health.
Because trauma is an event in which one fears his or her life, there are significant responses in the body during the event. During a traumatic event, the body produces increased blood sugar levels to provide extra energy for the muscles. There is an increase in cortisol that counters the pain and inflammation in the body, if there is any. Blood pressure rises. Blood is pumped away from the extremities of the body towards major muscles in order to provide them with extra strength. And there is an increased amount of cortisol to facilitate ignoring any physical pain in the body. The long-term effect is an impaired production of cortisol in everyday life.
Shortly after a traumatic event, a teen might experience psychological symptoms. The typical symptoms of someone who has experienced a traumatic event include anxiety, extreme emotional fluctuation, flashbacks, loneliness, anger, irritability, bad dreams, and frightening thoughts. An individual might also exhibit symptoms of avoidance, such as staying away from certain places to avoid reliving the traumatic experience or forgetting the experience entirely. This experience is diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Symptoms can begin as early as one month within experiencing trauma and, if not treated, can continue throughout the rest of a teen’s life. Untreated trauma can create significant damage to a teen’s psychological, emotional and physical well being. Sadly, the fear associated with experiencing a traumatic event thwarts a teen’s ability to explore the world and causes them to feel unsafe in following their curiosity.
In addition to the symptoms just mentioned, a teen’s beliefs about life and the way the world is ordered can change instantly. A deep trust in the world prior to trauma can easily turn into distrust of other people, life circumstances, and even oneself. This can be especially true if trauma repeats itself, such as witnessing death in war or ongoing sexual abuse by a family member. Repeated trauma can cause a worsening of anxiety, feeling a constant high level of alert and paranoia.
The inability to manage emotions, a typical symptom of PTSD, can lead to dysfunctional coping mechanisms such as drug use, drinking, cutting, aggression, and other forms of risky behavior. It can be challenging to manage feelings when they seem frightening or overwhelming. They might be accompanied by fear, helplessness, and powerlessness. These emotions might also lead to shutting down.
Because of the severe psychological consequences of PTSD, it’s important that a parent tend to a teen’s psychological health if there has been trauma in an adolescent’s life. As mentioned at the start of this article, it’s essential to immediately assess a teen’s psychological health if he or she has recently experienced trauma. Doing so can provide support and prevent any other further complications. A mental health professional familiar with trauma can provide a diagnosis as well as a treatment plan.
Fortunately, there are ways to heal trauma and its effects on a teen’s psychological health. Treating teens with PTSD typically includes therapy and medication. Therapy can provide teens with new coping mechanisms to manage the emotions, the invasive memories, and stress. Teen PTSD treatment can support a teen’s well-being and facilitate resolving and healing from a traumatic event.