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The Effects of Trauma in Teens

Spotting the underlying trauma that oftentimes manifests itself as substance abuse can be hard. As providers, parents, and friends we see the issues that are present right now most clearly, but where do these problems stem from? In some cases, substance abuse and behavioral changes result from trauma

Traumatic stress can stem from anything that threatens the physical or psychological well-being of your teen and traumatic stress is not one-size fits all. Not every distressing event will cause trauma and what does cause trauma varies from person to person. Something traumatic for your teen may not be traumatic for another child or adult. 

Once we realize that trauma has a variety of triggers, how it manifests itself in each individual is also varied. Trauma can produce a multitude of side effects including:

  • Poor impulse control, destructive behavior, or aggression

  • Low self-esteem, shame, or guilt

  • Disturbed body image

  • Trouble sleeping, excess sleep, or nightmares

  • Difficulty regulating emotion and expressing emotions

  • Unexplained physical symptoms and increased medical issues (i.e. asthma, skin rashes, etc.)

  • Social isolation and difficulty relating to or sympathizing with others

Trauma that exceeds these symptoms can develop into clinically diagnosed posttraumatic stress disorder (or PTSD). In these cases, PTSD can cause your teen to re-experience the trauma, avoid situations that are reminiscent of the trauma, and to numb themselves emotionally. 

If a teen is dealing with traumatic stress, substance abuse issues are often a gateway to avoid or defuse this negative emotional state. It is arguably the most common maladaptive coping mechanism for traumatized teens. 

This is where substance abuse can get tricky; if adolescents are treated for their traumatic stress and substance abuse separately, they are more likely to experience relapse and revert back to drug use after a trauma-triggering event. That is why increased communication between mental health professionals and drug treatment providers is so important. 

Our staff is trained and equipped for treating teens suffering with the effects of trauma. In fact, almost half of the teens that undergo treatment at Clearfork Academy are also dealing with trauma. If your teen is struggling with mental health or substance abuse, we want to help! Please call us at 888-966-8604, email us at help@clearforkacademy.com or visit us at clearforkacademy.com. Our team of specialists is standing by to help your family with your unique situation.