Effects of Trauma
Researchers have identified the following eight domains in which adolescents, who are exposed to trauma, may show deficiencies in development. Following is a description of each domain and how adolescents may react if they experience that particular deficiency.1
Adolescents who have attachment issues as a result of trauma may show difficulty relating to and empathizing with others. The world is seen as uncertain and unpredictable by the adolescent. Adolescents experiencing attachment problems can become socially isolated. They may have trouble developing trust within relationships and become suspicious.
Adolescents exposed to trauma may experience unexplained physical symptoms, medical problems, problems with movement, and sensation such as hyper sensitivity to touch and insensitivity to pain.
III. Mood/Affect regulation
Adolescents exposed to trauma may have difficulty describing their feelings and adapting their emotions to express their needs. They may be aroused by intense emotions such as anger and express anger in excess and in inappropriate ways. Other symptoms can include depression and preoccupation with suicide.2
Sometimes traumatized adolescents experience feelings of detachment or disorientation. Dissociation is described as the mental process of disengaging from the outside world and focusing on the inner world. It may involve a distorted sense of time or a detached feeling as if observing what is happening to them like it is unreal.3
V. Behavioral control
Traumatized adolescents affected by impairment in this area show signs of poor impulse control and self-destructive behavior. Engaging in unhealthy behaviors can be a sign of their attempt at dealing with overwhelming stress. Adolescents who have experienced sexual abuse can have a variety of behavioral effects. Some of these effects can include:
Adolescents exposed to violence within their core family are at a higher risk of getting involved in abusive relationships while dating.4
Traumatized adolescents may have problems completing tasks. They may demonstrate a lack of focus and lack of desire to plan for and look forward to future events. Adolescents affected may also develop learning disabilities and language development problems.
Adolescents that have experienced trauma may lack self-esteem, low body image, and feel exaggerated shame and guilt. They believe that the trauma has permanently affected how they deal with their environment and are likely to blame themselves for negative experiences.
Adolescents that have experienced trauma may also engage in unhealthy or destructive coping behaviors. In order to cope with the anxiety brought on by the trauma, adolescents may turn to drinking alcohol in excess, using street drugs, abusing prescription drugs, high risk sex, and other exaggerated behaviors.
The longer treatment is delayed for traumatic stress symptoms in adolescents, the higher the risk for developing these maladaptive behaviors.