What is Trauma?

Have you ever described yourself as “numb” following a family tragedy or natural disaster? What you are feeling is trauma. The American Psychological Association defines trauma as an emotional response to a terrible event. Teenagers experiencing trauma may respond in many different ways, and while some may experience no lasting effect, others will at risk of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. In these cases, it can be extremely difficult to move forward following the traumatic event.

How can I identify signs of Trauma?

Psychological trauma will become evident by a person’s behavior. Someone who has experienced a tragic loss in his or her family or survived a disaster may appear disoriented and unresponsive, and may become isolated or withdrawn from others. A person suffering from PTSD may experience feelings of grief or guilt, and in some cases physical pains such as headaches. Trauma can keep a person up at night, or cause them to have recurring nightmares that will not go away until their internal pain is healed.

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What causes Trauma?

Teens can be impacted by trauma in a number of ways. A tragedy in early childhood can leave emotional scars that may not heal without treatment. Other traumatic events can include physical or sexual abuse, or being witness to domestic or school violence.

The National Center for PTSD identifies the five main types of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as:

  • Normal Stress Response: An emotional response to a traumatic event that leads to a complete recovery in about five weeks.
  • Acute Stress Disorder: A severe response to trauma that can include panic attacks, sleeplessness, and the inability to manage daily activities.
  • Uncomplicated PTSD: Re-experiencing a traumatic event.
  • Comorbid PTSD: The symptoms of PTSD combined with other psychological disorders.
  • Complex PTSD: This term is assigned to a person who has endured an extended period of trauma. The National Center for PTSD states that those who suffer from Complex PTSD ”often are diagnosed with borderline or antisocial personality disorder or dissociative disorders.”

What are some treatment options for my Teen’s Trauma?

A person suffering from trauma may be able to overcome what’s happened through counseling. Teens dealing with anxiety caused by trauma must develop coping strategies, something that can be difficult for young people as this may be their first exposure to a traumatic event.

The American Psychological Association encourages talking to your kids in the wake of a traumatic event. However, PTSD sufferers may require longer-term care and assistance to help them overcome trauma.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is trauma a mental disorder?

No, trauma is an emotional response to tragic events. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is defined as a mental disorder.

Can anyone suffer PTSD?

Although PTSD is often described as a condition that affects members of the military and others who witness tragedy and disaster in combat, anyone can suffer from PTSD if they have been exposed to terrible events.

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