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How to Cope with Trauma as a Teen

Experiencing trauma can affect the way you think, feel, and behave. You may deal with intrusive memories of traumatic events or have flashbacks to the trauma. If you’re experiencing symptoms of trauma, this can cause other mental health challenges, such as anxiety and depression. 

When you’re a teenager who has experienced trauma,  you may feel like others don’t understand or can’t possibly relate to what you’re going through. Finding ways to cope and seeking support from a professional can help. 

How Does Trauma Affect Teenagers? 

Trauma impacts teenagers’ overall mental and physical well-being. Research suggests that many adolescents exposed to trauma have often experienced trauma in the form of physical or sexual abuse or by witnessing domestic violence. 

Teenagers who experience trauma may be a greater risk for: 

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • PTSD
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicidality
  • Self-harm
  • Truancy

The same study found that among adolescents aged 13-17, 62% of teenagers had been exposed to at least one traumatic event. 

How Can I Cope With My Trauma? 

If you’re a teenager who has experienced trauma, there are ways you can learn to cope and heal from trauma. 

Work with a Teen Therapist

One way to cope and deal with trauma effectively is to work with a teen therapist who is trained in working with trauma. Teen trauma therapists have specialized training to work with teens dealing with these issues. 

Some teens may prefer a traditional talk therapist, but other teens may prefer specialized trauma modalities such as: 

  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)
  • Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)
  • Internal Family Systems (IFS)

All of these modalities are effective trauma therapies. Teens may also benefit from experiential therapies such as art therapy or music therapy.

Find a Creative Outlet

Creative outlets can be a helpful way to process trauma. Many teens find that creative outlets can be a form of expression when it’s hard to communicate or process with words. 

Some potential creative outlets that may help process trauma include: 

  • Journaling
  • Painting and drawing
  • Playing an instrument
  • Singing
  • Listening to music

Creative outlets are best when used in conjunction with seeing a licensed therapist. 

Learn Grounding Techniques

Grounding techniques help you tune into the present moment and help you distract from negative thought patterns. They may also be helpful if you’re experiencing dissociation or having negative memories. 

Some examples of grounding techniques include the following: 

  • 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique: In this grounding technique, you refocus on the present moment by identifying 5 things you see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. 
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Progressive Muscle Relaxation, or PMR, is a grounding technique in which you tense and release each muscle to help aid in relaxation and alleviate tension. To practice, begin tensing and releasing each muscle, beginning with your toes and working your way up your body. When you practice this technique, you should never tense your muscles to the point of pain. 
  • Deep Breathing: Deep breathing techniques can help you relax and alleviate anxiety. There are many different types. The key is finding one that works for you. 

Next Steps for Dealing with Adolescent Trauma

If you’re a teen who has experienced trauma, you may be dealing with some heavy emotions and need ways to cope with mental health challenges. Seeking the support of a teen therapist like who is trained in trauma can help you manage and improve your quality of life.

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