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Teen Trauma FAQs

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Teen Trauma FAQ

Teen Trauma

Teen trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster. 

A teenager can experience trauma as a consequence of any event that is harmful or threatening on an emotional, mental or physical level.   

Teen trauma is most often associated with a child who experienced the loss of a loved one, sudden loss, emotional or physical abuse, sexual abuse, violence, neglect and sexual exploitation. 

Teen and childhood trauma occurs more often than we might think. In the US, more than two thirds of children will report a traumatic event by the age of 16. 

Our website is a source of information about teen trauma. What it is? How does teen trauma affect youths and what are the main causes of teen trauma. We want to  help you find the best resources for teen trauma prevention and treatment.

Trauma can manifest itself in many different ways in a teenager, as they’re already going through a challenging period of their development anyway. However, if you have lived through a traumatic event you’re very likely to experience PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and these are some more common symptoms to look out for:

  • Worry and anxiety in everyday situations;

  • Avoidance of people, places and everything that reminds them of the traumatic event;

  • Fear that something bad will happen;

  • Rage and anger – unexpected and unprovoked anger is very common and can even take the form of physical violence;

  • Shame and guilt – blaming themselves can become overwhelming;

  • Grief and depression – extended bouts of grief can lead to clinical depression in some cases;

  • Sleep problems – disrupted sleep and night terrors;

  • Feeling nothing – one of the most common responses to emotional, mental or physical trauma is numbing out

  • Eating disorders – very frequently an eating disorder can be the result of trauma.

We are here to help you with specific information about teen trauma,  identifying the early signs of trauma and to create awareness about the effects of trauma on our youth.

Get resources for help, and information about treatments, therapies available to help your teen here.

Loss of a Loved One

Bereavement is a normal part of human life but in some cases it can lead to trauma in teens and children and have mental health outcomes.

When a youth experiences a traumatic loss he or she may develop childhood traumatic grief (CTG). Trauma symptoms in this case are infringing on the grieving process and preventing the teen from negotiating the typical steps associated with normal bereavement.

In many cases in teens and adolescents, trauma as a result of loss is also associated with other traumatic events such as violence, fear of persecution, financial hardship and uncertainty, making it a challenge to diagnose when a child is suffering from traumatic grief.

It is estimated that over 5 million, youths will experience the loss of a loved one in the US before they reach the age of 18. 

While many children and teens will go through the grief process without long-term consequences Childhood Traumatic Grief (CTG), is a condition in which children whose loved one dies under traumatic circumstances develops trauma symptoms that stops them from going through the typical grief processes.

These are some of the symptoms that a teen can experience when they are traumatized by the loss of a loved one.

PTSD symptoms that include recurrent upsetting and intrusive thoughts and nightmares about the event, avoidance of talking about feelings and the event, numbing, emotional distancing, loss of interest in daily activities and normal life, irritability, angry bouts, some form of functional impairment e.g. academic underperformance. 

It is important to be vigilant and seek help to prevent the intensifying of the condition.

Loss of a Loved One Trauma
sexual abuse and exploitation

Sexual Abuse, Exploitation and Human Trafficking

While there are figures showing that over a million children are trafficked for sex globally (Source: 2016 UN, International Labor Organization), there are no reliable domestic statistic about this issue in the US at the moment. 

2018 was the first year when states reported on sex trafficking with 27 states recording 741 unique victims. Since then UNICEF reported that 1 in 7 missing children are likely victims of sexual exploitation.

It’s a widely hidden but steadily increasing problem across the country that affects urban, suburban, rural areas and all demographics.

The official definition as stated in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act is:

“Sex trafficking of minors is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or solicitation of a person under the age of 18 for the purposes of a commercial sex act, defined as any sex act for which anything of value is given or received by any person.”

Human trafficking and sex exploitation are becoming more common in every sector of American society. 

The prevalence oversteps the gender, socio-economic and racial boundaries usually associating it with ethnic minorities and the economically disadvantaged in inner city areas.

However,  due to the growth of social media use, more and more middle class teens are being recruited, coerced and then forced into commercial sexual exploitation.   

Still, youths from ethnic and racial minorities, LGBTQ community, homeless, runaway and those from less prosperous backgrounds continue to be more vulnerable to becoming victims of trafficking.

Yet, the fastest growth is amongst more prosperous middle-class communities where it often comes as more of a shock as it is not expected.  Read How traffickers recruited Sarah, a survivor story. 

There are many other factors that contribute towards the likelihood of a child being trafficked.

Many trafficked youths have been victims of physical and sexual abuse, have suffered trauma, loss, neglect or separation from family and caregivers which has deeply affected their social and emotional development and their understanding of healthy boundaries and relationships. It has also made them more at risk of becoming prey of malicious predators.

Violence and Abuse

677,529 cases of child abuse were reported in the United States in 2018.

Child abuse by parents or caregivers is a persistent problem not just among younger children.  Over 165,000 of the victims were ages between two to five but also among teenagers.

American Indian and Alaska native children are at the highest risk of child abuse and neglect is the most prevalent form of maltreatment.

Children who have been abused are 25% more likely to go through a teen pregnancy, engage in sexually risky behavior putting them at greater risk of violence and STDs.

The trauma suffered as children results in nearly 30% of those same children becoming violent and abusive parents themselves.

Research indicates that children with a history of abuse in early age, including neglect, are more likely to experience mental health issues, psychological and personality disorders.

Self-injury, suicidal tendencies and other forms of mental health issues are prevalent among teens that were victimized by a parent or caretaker. 

In at least one study, about 80% of 21 year olds that were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.

Sadly, in the majority of cases (91.7%) abuse and violence towards teens and children will be committed in the family by their own parents or primary caregivers or the caregiver’s partner.

Perpetrators are in their bulk (83.3%) between the ages of 18 and 44 years and more than half are women 53.8% vs 45.3% men and less than 1% of unknown sex.

teen trauma due to violence and abuse

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