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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. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), teen trauma, also known as childhood trauma, is defined as “the experience of an event by a child that is emotionally painful or distressful, which often results in lasting mental and physical effects.” Teenage trauma can be caused by ongoing stress (e.g., bullying, domestic violence, childhood neglect, etc.), one-time events (e.g., a violent attack, an accident, sudden injury, etc.), or life-changing events (e.g., sudden death of a loved one). Any experience that threatens an adolescent’s sense of security and leaves a young person feeling overwhelmed and isolated can be traumatic. The Boston Children’s Hospital conducted a study that found sixty-one percent of young people (age 13 to 17) had been exposed to at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, and nineteen percent had experienced three or more traumatic events in their lifetime. Untreated trauma, that occurs at any age, can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). PTSD is defined by the Mayo Clinic as “a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event—either experiencing it or witnessing it.” According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately ten percent of women and five percent of men are likely to experience PTSD at some point in their lifetimes. The impact of untreated teenage trauma can lead to an array of additional unwanted consequences that can last well into adulthood. When childhood trauma is left untreated, adults are likely to:

  • Deny the experience
  • Have unpredictable emotions
  • Experience flashbacks
  • Have strained relationships with others
  • Become distrustful of others and themselves
  • Become impulsive
  • Experience physical symptoms (e.g., headaches, nausea, etc.)

Unaddressed or ignored teenage trauma will inform adolescent behaviors, as well as the way in which a person matures and subsequently behaves in adulthood. Further, 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, more. Untreated childhood trauma has been repeatedly linked to the development of personality disorders and maladaptive personality traits.

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.


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