The emotional pain caused by trauma can lead to destructive behaviors. Self-medicating to numb the pain of a trauma causes a dangerous cycle that can lead to addiction.
Adolescent trauma results from experiencing or witnessing abuse or violence. Some adolescents can experience damage to brain development as a result. Also, many will develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to cope.
Adolescent Trauma Statistics
According to a study, five million American children experience a traumatic event every year. 25 percent of children will have been affected by some form of sexual violence by the age of 18. Experts estimate 65 percent of physical attacks and 86 percent of sexual attacks on teens are not reported. The shame that adolescents feel who suffer from trauma makes it difficult for them to ask for help and receive treatment. This is an important issue for our time.
Adolescents who suffer from untreated trauma are more likely to engage in unsafe behaviors as a teen, according to a study. Promiscuity, running away, and substance abuse are all more common among teens who experienced trauma. PTSD is not uncommon. 20 million children also suffer from the disorder.
Trauma can either be acute or chronic, yet both can be devastating to a teen’s health and development. Trauma can be almost any disturbing event including:
- Personal injury
- Witnessing an injury or death of someone else
- Facing the threat of injury or death
- Dealing with the threat of or actual sexual violation.
Repeated exposure to trauma can be devastating to your teen. In addition, chronic trauma sufferers often result to substance abuse to cope with the negative thoughts. As a result, teens find that drugs decrease their feelings of fear, sadness, and shame.
Some incidents that fall into this category of trauma include:
- Ongoing sexual abuse
- Ongoing physical abuse
- Domestic violence
- Ongoing bullying at school
- Instability at home
- Living in a community characterized by violence
Any one of these can lead to substance use disorder. Therefore, if a teen is using drugs or alcohol to reduce trauma symptoms, it can be hard to stop.
How Teens Respond to Trauma
Identifying Adolescent Trauma
It may not always be easy to recognize that the difficulties a teen experiences are as a result of trauma. Therefore, an assessment is an important step in the treatment of adolescent trauma.
Certain signs of trauma include:
It is also difficult to perform for a number of reasons, including:
- Unwillingness to share details of personal experience
- Issues trusting others
- Feelings of guilt and insecurity
Concerned parents should seek professional advice from experts in the field of adolescent trauma.
Effects of Adolescent Trauma
According to a study, brain development in teens can be negatively affected after trauma. Development is not complete until the mid-20s. Motor control, memory, cognitive ability, sleep, and impulse control are all areas of the brain that may have an effect on trauma. Treatment for teens can help healing.
When a teen is traumatized in childhood, this can mean that certain functions are affected, including the abilities to:
- Organize and maintain schedules
- Prioritize appropriately
- Make and follow through on decisions
- Remember details
- Recognize correct behaviors/responses
- Control impulses
Trauma and Substance Abuse or Addiction
Studies have found that childhood trauma creates the most stress for an individual. This makes it one of the primary causes of addiction.
For young people, the pain associated with a childhood trauma is still fresh. Hence, teens often take drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. As a result, this can lead to heavy drinking and drug abuse at a time when the adolescent’s life is still in an unstable state.
Image courtesy of Benjamen Combs via Unsplash.