At Safe Landing, we know from experience: Addiction and trauma go hand in hand. In a recent study, 61% of teens (ages 13-17) had been exposed to at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. Because of this, we rely on a trauma-informed care model, which assumes that everyone we come into contact with may have had some sort of traumatic event happen in their life.
It’s important to note that trauma can be a single, intense event or an ongoing series of events or a relationship that causes pain and distress that builds over time. This can fuel addiction and result in teen substance abuse along with other behavior like fighting, cutting, overeating or running away to try to deal with trauma reactions and distressing feelings.
It’s not unusual for teens with a history of trauma to hold negative beliefs about themselves — including shame, guilt, resentment. They often manifest physical symptoms as well, such as increased anxiety, depression, emotional patterns like unstable relationships. We begin by identifying those symptoms, then use trauma therapy to help teens address the negative effects of trauma, including reprocessing their traumatic memories, overcoming problematic thoughts and behaviors, and developing effective coping and interpersonal skills.
When there’s a traumatic event, situation or relationship — whether it’s physical abuse, sexual abuse, a natural disaster or an dysfunctional family relationship — the human body releases an influx of stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. They flood the brain, effectively shutting off the parts of the brain that are responsible for reprocessing the traumatic events.
Because that part of the brain is shut off due to the trauma chemicals, it also prevents the brain from processing the event appropriately. The result is a “fight-or-flight” response to the trauma — including anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and some forms of depression.
Trauma can result in a wide range of feelings including being confused, terrified, overwhelmed, helpless, angry, and/or numb. It can be hard to feel safe. Teens may feel out of control or that life is out of control. It can be hard for them to trust people or get close to people. They may get into a lot of conflict and drama with the people around them. They can also start feeling like nobody cares about them.
Other reactions to trauma could include:
Trauma reminders can include certain places, situations, people, words, sounds, smells, sensations, or days of the year that remind teens of the trauma but are not actually dangerous. When teens experience these reminders, they may feel unsafe or as if they were living through the trauma over again. This may cause them to engage in behaviors that don’t fit the situation or get them in trouble with others. Avoiding anything associated with the trauma reminder may also get in the way of life and the things they like to do.
At Safe Landing, we can help teens become aware of possible reminders and use coping and relaxation skills to manage emotional reactions better. Our therapists can also help teens take small steps to be able to face situations that remind them of trauma in a safe way so that they don’t have to keep avoiding.
Safe Landing has extensive experience helping teens overcome trauma and the self-medicating behavior of substance abuse. Our comprehensive approach combines evidence-based therapy with a safe, supportive environment that helps teens reprocess upsetting memories while learning new techniques to cope with everyday stressors. By reprocessing these events and emotions, it’s possible to experience a profound sense of relief — both physically and psychologically, which enables teens to enjoy life and their relationships with others more.
Elements of trauma therapy include:
With professional help and a slow, deliberate approach, your teen can release painful emotions, increase resiliency, restore balance and harmony, and regain his or her life. It is possible for your teen to let go of fear, anxiety and pain and feel whole again.
Our team of licensed mental health professionals is dedicated to helping teens heal from trauma. Contact us today at 855-993-6311 to learn more about our specialized programs.