Exposure to traumatic experiences, defined as extremely stressful events that overwhelm a person’s ability to cope, can greatly compound the difficulties and pressures of adolescence. Both full-blown life threatening events and experiences of “traumatic invalidation,” such as bullying or childhood emotional abuse, can be equally problematic. Children and adolescents exposed to trauma may develop lifelong patterns of emotional avoidance, and are more likely to abuse substances, engage in risky sexual behavior, have problematic peer relationships, self-injure, and experience suicidal ideation. Early intervention is critical, and most teens who receive appropriate treatment go on to experience positive outcomes.
Evidence-based treatment of trauma responses in adolescence involve careful assessment, psychoeducation, family education, and a specific protocol such as Trauma-Focused CBT (TF-CBT) or Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE).