Trauma is an individual experience. Derived from the ancient Greek for wound, a traumatic experience is any experience leaving a lasting psychological mark on a person. What makes an experience traumatic is completely within the eye of the beholder. Some people survive accidents physically and mentally unscathed, while others grapple for years with a feeling of terror.

The factors influencing a trauma disorder are largely external, but trauma can be genetic. Some teens are more prone to developing trauma disorders than others.

Some experiences are universally harrowing, such as experiences of sexual assault, natural disasters, and war – and these leave a mark on any of us. But the degree to which trauma can affect a person is also very individual, with different symptoms and ways of coping. It’s estimated about 40 percent of children and adolescents will or have experienced a traumatic event in their lifetime, but only a portion of people develop trauma disorders as a result.

Symptoms and Types of Trauma Disorders

Trauma disorders are characterized by lasting symptoms of behavioral and mental scarring because of a traumatic experience. We all cope with tragedy and pain at some point in our lives, but traumatic experiences leave a much longer-lasting mark, and in cases where a disorder develops, it can stay for years and decades. Symptoms identifying a trauma disorder can include:

  • Avoiding trauma triggers
  • Experiencing frequent nightmares, flashbacks, unwanted thoughts, and memories
  • Feelings of severe anxiety, or emotional numbness
  • Trouble with concentration and coherence, often due to intrusive memories
  • Appearing distant and “not there”
  • Feeling detached from their own experiences
  • Avoiding other forms of stress
  • Insomnia and sleeplessness
  • Blocked memories and amnesia

At Visions we primarily treat two trauma disorders:

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):

Post-traumatic stress disorder can begin within a month after a traumatic event, but sometimes, it can take months or years for symptoms to develop. The four main characteristics of PTSD include intrusive memories, negative coping and mood changes, changes in physical and emotional reactions (greater sensitivity and more prone to fright), and avoidance (of people, sounds, events, and so on).

Dissociative Disorder:

A dissociative disorder is characterized by feeling separate from one’s own experiences. The prevalent theory is some people develop dissociative symptoms to cope with the severity of a traumatic experience, often blocking the memory of people, things, and the event itself to “protect” the mind. Dissociative disorder is further split into three unique archetypes, including dissociative amnesia, dissociative identity disorder (previously multiple identity disorder), and depersonalization disorder.

Treating Trauma Disorders at Visions

The symptoms of a trauma disorder are complex, and individual teens react very differently to different experiences. At Visions, we believe in the importance of developing a unique approach for every case.

Our facilities make use of a wide repertoire of therapeutic tools and are staffed by experts and specialists from different fields of medicine and psychiatry. We rely on a thorough assessment process to figure out the best way to help every teen who comes to Visions. Some of the treatments we utilize include:

Psychotherapy

Talk therapy or psychotherapy is still a central tool for treating trauma disorders, helping teens navigate the wounded and fractured effects of trauma, identify maladaptive coping methods, and figure out more effective behavioral and mental alternatives.

Medication

There are no medications addressing trauma specifically, however some of the symptoms of a trauma disorder include severe mood drops and thoughts of suicide. Antidepressants can help alleviate these symptoms and complement talk therapy, and help teens move away from thoughts of extreme self-deprecation and blame. Other rarely prescribed treatments include the alpha-blocker Prazosin, and anti-anxiety medication (sedatives).

Experiential Therapy

At Visions, part of our treatment process involves a variety of different experiential therapies, including music and art therapy, neurofeedback, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, and exposure therapy.

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How Visions Helps Teens with Trauma Disorders

While time heals many wounds, trauma is often not one of them. Trauma disorders must be addressed properly, and with great care. At Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, we help teens with trauma disorders find healthy ways of coping, as well as effective therapies to reduce some of the destructive symptoms and thoughts accompanying a trauma disorder.