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Trauma is defined as any type of distressing event or experience that can have an impact on a person’s ability to cope and function. Developmental trauma, also known as complex trauma, refers to prolonged “exposure to multiple, cumulative traumatic events, usually of an interpersonal nature, during childhood which results in developmentally adverse consequences.” Early childhood experiences play a large role in how the brain develops and functions. A report from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University asserts that childhood trauma can derail healthy development and cause damaging effects on learning, behavior, and health across the lifespan. Hence, these experiences can have a profound and lasting impact on the mental health of teenagers.

Symptoms of Developmental Trauma

Though everyone’s experiences with trauma may differ, there are some common symptoms that arise. Due to prolonged exposure to traumatic events or adverse experiences during a person’s formative years, such as childhood and adolescence, a teenager may struggle with various psychological and/ or physical symptoms, some of which include the following:

  • Psychological symptoms:
    • Anxiety
    • Self-blame
    • Isolation
    • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
    • Despair
    • Feelings of numbness or disconnection
    • Relational problems
    • Negative core beliefs
    • Negative self-concept
    • Lack of trust
    • Addiction
    • Eating disorders
    • Sense of doom
    • Codependency
    • Hypervigilance
  • Physical symptoms:
    • Nightmares
    • Fatigue
    • Heightened startle response
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Rapid heartbeat
    • Edginess
    • Agitation
    • Gastrointestinal problems
    • Hypertension
    • Elevated Blood Pressure
    • Environmental Sensitivities
    • Sleep Issues
    • Chronic Pain
    • Panic attacks
    • Inattention
    • Headaches

Psychology Today asserts that untreated trauma has the propensity to cause permanent changes in the brain, producing corresponding shifts in intelligence, emotional reactivity, happiness, sociability, and more, all of which directly impact a teen’s mental health. Understanding the impact of developmental trauma on teen mental health underscores the importance of early intervention and support. By addressing the emotional and psychological effects of trauma and providing appropriate therapeutic interventions, teenagers can work toward healing and improved mental well-being.

For Information and Support 

Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times.

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.


We are available to answer any questions you may have regarding mental health treatment and our residential program, anytime. Contact us today using the form to the right.

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