Wednesday, June 7, 2023

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How Trauma in Teenagers Can Affect Their Mental Health: What Experts Say

Many teenagers experience trauma, and it can affect every aspect of their lives. 

Trauma can be difficult for anyone to deal with, but when you’re a teenager, this experience can be especially challenging. During this time in your life, you are trying to figure out who you are and what kind of person you want to become. You may also be balancing school work, extracurricular activities, socializing with friends and family members, and romantic relationships – all while developing into an adult with your own unique personality traits and characteristics. 

Trauma can have an impact on each one of those areas we’ve just mentioned because it affects us physically as well as emotionally.

Trauma can affect every aspect of a person’s life.

People who have experienced trauma are more likely to experience negative physical and mental health problems, such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Depression and anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or acute stress disorder (ASD)
  • Substance abuse problems or alcoholism
  • Lack of trust in others and feelings of isolation.

Children that have suffered trauma can find it more difficult to learn how to trust, how to regulate their emotions, and interact with the world around them. They can find it difficult to understand themselves and their values. 

Teens can also develop hormonal issues after trauma that affect the way the body deals with inflammation. Excessive inflammation in the body can lead to a host of health concerns including metabolic disorders, pain, and heart disease. 

Types of Childhood Trauma

Childhood trauma can come in many forms. It often includes:

  • Childhood abuse, including physical and sexual abuse.
  • Childhood neglect, such as inadequate nutrition or not having a safe place to sleep.
  • Abuse by someone within the family that results in emotional distress, like an alcoholic parent or a parent who is physically and verbally abusive to their children.
  • Social Abuse such as bullying
  • Community violence: the exposure to interpersonal violence in public areas
  • Traumatic grief – the loss of a family member or loved one

The trauma experienced by teenagers can affect their mental health for the rest of their lives.

Trauma can cause long-term effects that have a negative impact on a person’s mental health, behavior, self-esteem, and relationships. These effects are often referred to as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Symptoms of PTSD can include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Avoiding triggering situations
  • Guilt or shame

Teenagers who suffer trauma may exhibit unhealthy behaviors as coping mechanisms.

If you are struggling with trauma and need help, seek out a professional at You don’t have to go through this alone. 

It is not a weakness to get help. Unhealthy coping mechanisms can manifest in substance abuse disorders, unhealthy eating disorders, unhealthy sexual activity, and more. It’s not only about mental health but physical health as well.

Teenagers with trauma may be at risk of self-harm or suicide.

Teenagers with trauma may be at risk of self-harm or suicide. Middle School age suicide rates doubled between 2007 and 2017.

Self-harm is a way for them to cope, but it can also become a destructive habit that is difficult to break. Death by suicide is now as likely as death by a car accident in this age group. 

With an increase in mental health issues linked to social media, cyberbullying, and earlier puberty, combine that with trauma and these teens have an incredible weight on their shoulders.

Teenagers who self-harm may not be aware of the warning signs. They can feel isolated and hopeless, which makes it hard for them to reach out for help. 

Many teenagers who experience trauma never receive treatment, so it’s important to look out for signs that they’re struggling and get them the help they need.

Signs of trauma in teenagers include:

  • Depression or anxiety
  • Separation problems from friends, family, or pets
  • Low self-esteem or lack of motivation
  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness and suicidal thoughts/attempts.

If you suspect your teenager is suffering from trauma, encourage them to talk about it and offer support. Even if you don’t think they’ll open up to you, it’s worth trying because untreated trauma can lead to more serious mental health issues later in life—including depression, anxiety disorders, and substance misuse. If someone else is having trouble reaching out for help with their own struggles with mental health issues (and not just dealing with a traumatic event), encourage them by acting yourself instead!

Even though teenage years are often full of drama and mood swings, it is still important to determine whether an unusual change in behavior might be due to trauma and seek help if needed.

Even though teenage years are often full of drama and mood swings, it is still important to determine whether an unusual change in behavior might be due to trauma and seek help if needed. 

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), “Many adolescents who have experienced trauma do not seek treatment on their own,” so it’s important for parents to watch for signs of distress and seek help if necessary.

If you suspect that your teenager is suffering from trauma, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. While there are many things you can do on your own such as talking with your child about what happened or reading up on the topic, seeking professional help from a mental health professional may also be useful. 

You can find qualified mental health therapist through The MHM Group Website website or American Psychological Association (APA), you can try calling a behavioral health provider near you where licensed professionals specializing in mental health issues work closely with primary care providers in pediatric offices.


Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of what trauma is, how it affects teenagers and how to help them. 

If you or someone you know needs help, reach out to someone who can connect you with resources in your area. The more we understand the effects of trauma on our children’s lives, the more we can do to prevent it from happening in the first place.

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