How Does Teenage Trauma Affect Adulthood

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Many people with mental health conditions as adults have experienced trauma as an adolescent. Experiencing a traumatic event(s) as a teenager can increase the chances of that individual developing a drug or alcohol addiction, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, physical issues, and many other mental health disorders. 

Since many times teenagers do not speak about their trauma and have difficulty recognizing it, it’s important to learn the signs and behaviors that are associated with trauma. This way, treatment and healing can be provided early and reduce the chances of the teenager carrying the effects of trauma into their adult years. 

What is Trauma?

Trauma is defined as an event or circumstance that results in physical harm, emotional harm, and/or life-threatening harm. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) states that trauma can have lasting effects on an individual’s mental health, physical health, emotional health, social well-being, and spiritual well-being. 

Anyone at any age can experience trauma. Unresolved childhood trauma can have lasting effects on a person and can stay with them into adulthood, significantly affecting their mental health. 

Types of Traumatic Events

There are many types of events that can cause trauma. It’s important to note that what is considered traumatic for one person might not be for another. Trauma is a highly personalized experience and almost always requires the help of mental health professionals. 

Examples of traumatic events include (but are not limited to):

  • Emotional or verbal abuse

  • Childhood abuse

  • Terminal illness

  • Domestic violence

  • Sexual abuse

  • Accidents

  • Natural disasters

  • Physical assault

  • Bullying or ongoing harassment

Past trauma has a way of sneaking up on people. As mentioned, many individuals, especially teenagers, might not have realized the event(s) they experienced growing up was serious. This is one of the main reasons why so many adults have mental health conditions that are a result of childhood.

If you suspect your child or loved one might need treatment for trauma, contact a mental health professional or doctor. 

How Teenage Trauma Affects Adulthood

There are two primary ways teenage trauma affects adulthood, which include increasing the chance of the individual developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol, and the individual developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 

Physical issues can also arise, including developing chronic pain that can’t be explained by a medical professional, the development of autoimmune diseases, and other many other health conditions that can come up. 

While not every person who has a drug addiction or PTSD has experienced trauma, this is the case for many adults. This is due to the fact that our brains adapt easily to many situations and environments – and this is also true with trauma. A teenage brain is still fully developing in many ways. Therefore, going through a traumatic event can significantly impact the brain’s development. This is part of what can lead to addiction or other mental health conditions. 

Additionally, sometimes what feels traumatic as a teenager might not be considered traumatic as an adult. This is because teenagers are at an age where they are still very much learning about the world and have had more limited life experiences than an adult.

Substance Abuse and Trauma

When teenagers experience trauma it can drastically affect their ways of coping with emotions throughout life. This might cause them as an adult to shut down, to become depressed, and to turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of dealing with something difficult. 

They might view their drinking or drug use as just “fun” or a way to de-stress, but oftentimes the substance abuse can quickly become an addiction. Usually, the case is the adult is drinking or using drugs as a way to “cope” with something in life that feels uncomfortable. They haven’t developed any health skillsets for coping with life, therefore turning to drugs and alcohol.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Trauma

PTSD is a serious mental health condition and is common in individuals who have experienced trauma. It occurs when the person continues to experience the ongoing effects of the traumatic event. This can be flashbacks to childhood memories, difficulty sleeping, severe anger, self-destructive behaviors, significant changes in mood, depression, and many others. 

Treatment for PTSD includes a variety of therapies to help individuals understand their trauma and develop healthy coping skills so they can live a happy life. 

Signs of Trauma

The signs of trauma can include a combination of the below symptoms and behaviors. 

  • Dramatic changes in mood

  • Anxiety

  • Erratic behavior

  • Eating disorders

  • Fear

  • Becoming easily agitated

  • Irritable

  • Lack of confidence, low self esteem

  • Avoiding activities that remind them of the traumatic experience

  • Difficulty connecting socially 

  • Physical symptoms, including chronic pain and autoimmune disorders

It’s common for adolescents to initially not want to speak about any trauma they have experienced. In many cases, they might not even realize they have experienced trauma, making it even more important for parents and caregivers to be aware of the above symptoms and behaviors. 

Professional help is almost always needed for the symptoms to improve and for healing to begin. Treatment often includes individual therapy and can often include family therapy or group therapy. 

Get Treatment For Trauma Today

At Zenith Behavioral Health we provide evidence-based treatment solutions and intensive interventions for youth and adults with chronic psychiatric and behavioral disorders, including OCD, anxiety disorders, and other mental health disorders.

We accept multiple forms of payment including AHCCCS Medicaid and other types of Medicaid insurance to pay for our Arizona mental health treatment programs. Our primary goal is to offer a safe and secure environment while advancing each individual’s path toward wellness and recovery.