Repetitive trauma and violence in the life of a young individual cause deep pain. Too many adolescents have faced trauma and violence, struggling with both without help. Many turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the deep wounds that occur.
Helping adolescents heal from repetitive violence is important in recovery. By getting help through the healing process, adolescents can improve their mental and physical health and overcome the substance addiction that has resulted from their past.
Repetitive Trauma in Adolescents
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than two-thirds of children experience at least one traumatic event before they are 16 years old. Traumatic events and repetitive violence could include any of the following:
- Psychological, physical, or sexual abuse
- Violence in the community or at school
- National disaster or terrorism
- Refugee or war experience
- Serious accidents or life-threatening illness
Impact of Repetitive Trauma on Adolescents
Repetitive traumatic events have a unique impact on adolescents. While each individual’s reaction will vary, the symptoms an adolescent may have include:
- Physical problems, including headaches or stomach aches
- Consistent nightmares or other issues with sleep
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Feelings of shame or guilt
- Thoughts of revenge
Others in an adolescent’s life may also notice symptoms of repetitive traumatic events. These include:
- Problems in school, both behavioral and academic
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and others they are close to
- Avoiding situations or people who remind them of traumatic events
- Use of drugs, alcohol, or tobacco
- Anger and hostility toward themselves or others
- Being disruptive, disrespectful, or destructive
Helping Adolescents Heal From Trauma
Due to the deep wounds caused by repetitive violence, intensive treatment is necessary. Healing includes addressing the symptoms and the root cause. Many tools can help individuals who have experienced repeated traumatic events.
Due to the substances commonly abused, treatment must include methods to help adolescents heal from addiction and trauma. Addiction treatment will vary for each individual. However, it includes addressing an individual’s physical and emotional addiction.
Therapeutic modalities help adolescents build new coping mechanisms and learn to work through the stress and emotions that accompany traumas. As adolescents learn to address their needs without drugs and alcohol, they increase their success in long-term recovery.
Approaching treatment with empathy helps adolescents heal. By being treated with empathy, adolescents can learn to empathize with themselves and others. This aids in recovery from both trauma and addiction.
Empathy helps individuals feel understood. If a mental healthcare professional empathizes with an adolescent in treatment, it can help to validate the pain that comes as a result of repetitive traumatic events.
Understanding Repetitive Trauma
For many, especially in early recovery, learning to understand repetitive traumas and their impacts improves treatment outcomes. By normalizing trauma-related symptoms and educating a client about them, clients can begin to heal. Repetitive traumatic events result in a continual feeling of being unsafe. However, these feelings can be processed and understood by a client.
While adolescents are not adults, they do have the capacity to improve awareness of their feelings and the result of past traumatic events. Each individual’s experience will be different, including the symptoms that they can learn to understand.
Examining the Impact of Trauma
While it will vary for each client, examining the events that have caused harm can help to change how adolescents deal with emotional pain. This includes addressing the maladaptive coping strategies individuals have used to manage the deep pain caused by traumatic events.
As clients learn to understand how their past has led to coping methods such as drug use, they are more likely to be able to heal from the maladaptive coping mechanisms as well as the original events. However, each client will vary, and the benefits of examining the past will be different in each scenario. The most important thing is for each client to be aided in a way that is most helpful for their healing.
Applying Strengths to Heal
While certain coping methods are maladaptive and do not help with healing, others are a good foundation to build upon. Adolescents who have experienced multiple traumatic events commonly feel guilt or shame. Their focus tends to be on what they lack rather than what strengths they have.
The processing of healing takes time. For an adolescent to learn new ways to manage and process emotions, they can apply their strength. Working with an adolescent to explore their strengths can help them to identify skills they already have. Once identified, clients can expand on these skills.
Applying strengths to the healing process aids in healing while building self-confidence. Their belief that they can heal and care for their wounds is integral in their learning to move beyond the past. Growing the skills required to both heal and live as a fully functioning adult, without the use of drugs or alcohol to do so, will result in healthier, happier lives.
Helping adolescents heal from repetitive traumas and violence improves mental health and success in addiction treatment for youth. While many techniques are available, empathizing and helping clients to learn how to manage symptoms and address the deep wounds can help. Sustain Recovery is an extended residential treatment program in Irvine, California, where adolescents are treated for mental health disorders alongside addiction. We help teens heal from individual traumatic events, repetitive trauma, and other deep-rooted problems that play a role in addiction. Our facility helps youth connect with resources in their area, helping them get the tools they need to heal. To learn more about our program, call us today at (949) 407-9052.