Identifying Signs Of Trauma In Youth & The Need For Mental Health Support

Signs Of Trauma In Youth

Teens can be especially vulnerable to trauma. As many as half of all teens will experience some form of abuse or neglect, and traumatic events can lead to long-term symptoms like PTSD.

The signs of trauma are not always clear and can vary depending on the person, but there are a few things to look for. Understanding what to watch for can help you know when to get help.

Disrupted Sleep Patterns

As the COVID-19 pandemic triggered lockdowns, children and adolescents had to adapt to new circumstances. They were forced to change their sleep schedules and habits. The survey results showed that a significant number of children and adolescents (6-18 years) reported sleeping problems during the pandemic compared to before.

They generally experienced a delay in their usual bed and wake times on weekdays and weekends. The youngest group (6-10 years) had the lowest delay, whereas the 11-14 and 15-18 year-olds had the strongest delays.

Some patients complain of insomnia without objective evidence of sleep pathology (pseudoinsomnia). These are called short sleepers because they regularly have a daily sleep total below what is expected for their age. Their waking states are often disturbed by thoughts or feelings that cannot be regulated.

Loss Of Appetite Or Overeating

Traumatic experiences can trigger strong emotional and physiological reactions. Children may experience terror, helplessness, fear, and physical reactions like a racing heartbeat or nausea. This is why adults must watch out for changes in their child or teen’s behavior and emotions.

In two studies, youth with higher depressive symptoms were linked to observed eating behaviors expected to promote overeating, especially in girls. These results support prior research linking depression with obesity in adolescent girls. However, the findings suggest that factors like dietary restraint and individual differences may moderate the relationship between depression and energy intake. Mental health services can help children and teens deal with trauma-related issues, including loss of appetite or overeating. They can offer supportive and evidence-based trauma treatment techniques.

Anxiety Or Fear

Fear is a natural human response to perceived danger. However, when it becomes an uncontrollable and pervasive state of being worried about oneself or others that interferes with a person’s ability to function and causes significant distress, it is important to seek help.

Young children often feel anxious about external threats like animals or insects, monsters under the bed, or something bad happening to their family members. As children grow into teenagers, they may become anxious about their school work or sports performance, appearance, and how their peers perceive them.

Avoidant coping and using somatic complaints are key signs of anxiety. Children unable to function or engage in healthy relationships with their families may have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Treatments for PTSD include cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy.

Behavioral Changes

A traumatic experience can have a profound impact on children and adolescents. In addition to causing emotional problems, it can lead to behavioral changes. This can include a child suddenly displaying an unusually aggressive or violent personality.

Children may also exhibit avoidance behaviors based on exposure to a particular place or object associated with the traumatic event. This can cause them to feel fearful of going to school or other public places where they might encounter the object or place again. Mental health services can treat a child’s symptoms and help them work toward recovery. Treatment options include talk therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). It is important to seek treatment as soon as possible because the longer the trauma is left untreated, the more long-lasting its effects can be.


Depression is a serious mental health condition that can undermine a person’s relationships and make work and school difficult. It can also lead to feelings of emptiness or hopelessness, causing suicidal thoughts.

Depression can be caused by a single event or a series of events. It can also result from ongoing issues like abuse, neglect, a lack of social support, or a serious illness.

Depression is often misdiagnosed or goes untreated. Recognizing depression in youth and referring them to a healthcare professional can help them get the needed treatment. Signs of depression include sadness, irritability, poor performance at school or home, excessive crying, clinginess, aches and pains, substance use, or self-injury behaviors. Depression is treatable with talk therapy and medication.

In conclusion, the vulnerability of teenagers to trauma and the potential long-lasting effects, such as PTSD, is a major concern. It is important to recognize the signs of trauma among adolescents to provide timely support and intervention. Disturbed sleep patterns, changes to appetite, anxiety, fear, behavioral change, or depression can indicate trauma in teenagers. Early intervention is crucial to reducing the impact on young lives.

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