Types of Trauma Teens May Experience

Adolescence can be an exciting time for teens. It’s a time for teens to discover what matters to them, who they want to be, and the direction they want to take their life in the future. However, for some teens, adolescence can be a time of trouble. In fact, because of the transition to adulthood and the incredible amount of growth teens undergo, they may be vulnerable to emotional disorders and mental illness.

This is especially true for teens who experience trauma.  Whether it is experienced earlier in their childhood or during adolescence, trauma can create psychological difficulties for teens. Trauma is an experience that is perceived by a person to be life threatening. The following is a list of examples of trauma that a person may experience. Sadly, some teens experience one or more of these during the vulnerable time of adolescence.

  • Rape
  • Death in the family
  • Witnessing a crime
  • Death or suicide of a close friend
  • Domestic violence
  • Natural disaster
  • Witnessing violence
  • Chronic bullying
  • Repeated abandonment
  • Physical or sexual abuse

Types of Trauma

When reviewing the above list, you’ll notice that some of these examples are one-time events, while others are ongoing or repeated incidents. This is one distinction that helps identify the types of traumas that teens may experience. The four types are listed below:

Acute Trauma – These traumatic experiences are sudden, unexpected, severely stressful events that are limited in duration. For instance, an unexpected death of a friend, a natural disaster such as a hurricane, and a fatal car crash are examples of acute traumas.

Chronic Trauma – This kind of trauma is when a person experiences repeated trauma over a long period of time, such as ongoing physical abuse and continued exposure to war. Chronic traumas include traumas that are caused by other human beings, such as acts of terrorism, childhood abuse, or witnessing ongoing domestic violence between parents. These types of ongoing human-caused trauma can be more damaging psychologically than other forms of trauma.

Complex Trauma – This type of trauma is when a person experiences ongoing traumatic experiences by someone they have to trust and rely upon, such as a parent or caregiver. When children and teens experience sexual or physical abuse by a caregiver, the results of trauma become more complicated and have severe effects on the developing mind of a child or teen.

Neglect – Although the general public may not describe neglect as trauma, ongoing neglect can by just as damaging to a child as chronic trauma. Because children and teens are dependent upon their caregivers for survival, neglect can feel life-threatening. In addition, neglect can contribute to low self esteem,  addiction, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, depression, and other forms of psychological harm.

According to the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, about 15% to 43% of girls and 14% to 43% of boys experience at least one type of trauma. Of those children and teens who have had a trauma, 3% to 15% of girls and 1% to 6% of boys develop post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As a result of experiencing such an intense ordeal, along with feeling powerless to do anything about it, psychological symptoms often result.

In Conclusion

If you’re a parent or caregiver of a teen who has experienced trauma or neglect, there’s a good chance they could use the support of a mental health provider. Call a therapist or psychologist in your neighborhood today.