Teen trauma can be devastating. In order to heal and go on to live full, thriving lives, teens need evidence-based care and parental support. But parents don’t always realize their child is suffering, because teens may avoid telling parents about a traumatic event due to shame, guilt, or fear of how their parent will react. And when parents are not aware of teen trauma and thus a teen doesn’t receive the necessary help, the effects can get worse. When left undiagnosed and untreated, trauma can progress into PTSD.

When parents are able to maintain an open and honest relationship with their teen, it’s more likely that their child will speak with them about a traumatic event. Even when parent-child communication is strong, however, teens don’t always open up. When a teen is unable or unwilling to communicate about something deeply disturbing that they have experienced, parents may be able to detect that they are suffering by observing changes in behavior, appetite, sleep, and more.

When teens are clearly struggling but don’t divulge their experiences of trauma, parents should handle the situation with great care. Forcing a conversation could result in further pain and repercussions for the teen. Parents may want to seek advice from a mental health professional as to how to proceed when there are extreme changes in teen behavior without disclosure of trauma.

Symptoms of Trauma in Teens

The symptoms of teen trauma and PTSD fall into four categories:

1. Re-experiencing – including flashbacks, panic attacks, bad dreams, and frightening thoughts
2. Avoidance – avoiding related places, events, or objects or suppressing thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event
3. Arousal and Reactivity – startling easily, feeling tense, sleep difficulties, and angry outbursts
4. Cognition and Mood – difficulty remembering details related to the trauma, negative or distorted thoughts, less interest in enjoyable activities

Teens suffering from trauma or PTSD may experience all of these symptoms or just one or more from each category.

How Parents’ Response Impacts Teen Trauma

How a parent responds in the aftermath of trauma can directly affect a teen's recovery and emotional resilience. When parents are warm and supportive with their teen following trauma, teens are less likely to develop PTSD symptoms. Alternatively, when parents react with overprotection or avoidance of the issue, there’s a higher likelihood that a teen will develop PTSD.

The way a parent responds to teen trauma is often based on their own emotional tendencies and psychological history. Therefore, parents may need to seek help to address their personal responses to their teen's trauma. Because of the impact of parental responses on teen trauma, parents should prioritize their child's emotional needs over their own.

Therapy for Teen Trauma and PTSD

To begin the healing process, teens need to process the traumatic experience, which is why therapy for trauma is so important. First, a mental health professional must conduct a comprehensive assessment in order to make a diagnosis of trauma/PTSD and any co-occurring disorders. Trauma diagnoses are often co-occurring with depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

Therapy produces the most significant results in PTSD treatment. Therapists utilize multiple modalities, or types of therapy, in the healing process. The most common and useful modalities in the treatment of PTSD include:

• Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy identifies the thought processes related to trauma and helps teens reframe their experiences.
• Dialectical Behavioral Therapy teaches specific skills that allow teens to become self-aware and to better manage stress and difficult emotions.
• Motivational Enhancement Therapy encourages self-motivated change in thinking and behavior.
• Somatic (body-based) therapy and EMDR support teens to process and release trauma in order to bring the nervous system back into balance.
• Experiential therapies such as art therapy, music therapy, Adventure Therapy, and Equine-Assisted Therapy allow growth and transformation through hands-on, real-life experiences that build trust and self-confidence.

With evidence-based therapy, along with the unconditional love and support of parents, teens have every change of recovering from trauma and moving forward in their lives with hope and a sense of purpose.

Find out about treatment for trauma, collective trauma, and PTSD at NewportAcademy.com.

Author's Bio: 

At Newport Academy, we believe in sustainable healing. We bring teens from self-destruction to self-esteem by treating the underlying causes of maladaptive and high-risk behavior. We treat individuals, ages 12-22, struggling with teenage depression, teen anxiety, eating disorders, teen trauma, teen dual diagnosis, and teenage substance abuse. Newport Academy is a different kind of teen rehab center. Through our clinical expertise and holistic care, we empower teens and restore families. We are a teen treatment center that provides the safety, support, and, above all, the unconditional love that teens and their families need to heal.