How to Recognize Childhood Trauma in Your Teen


Childhood trauma can occur in many ways. Parents who foster or adopt children are more likely to experience the effects of childhood trauma due to extreme losses, adverse experiences and challenges the children have encountered. However, even children born into safe, protected homes and families may experience trauma at some point in their life.
According to, 26 percent of children in the United States will experience or witness a traumatic event before the age of four. The types and levels of traumatic experiences vary. Some may involve the loss of a family member or caregiver. Others may involve natural disasters, severe accidents, bullying, war, hospitalization, abuse or neglect. Identifying children who have experienced trauma is often difficult because no two children react the same. When two children are exposed to the same trauma, one may manifest as severe PTSD, while the other seems to only struggles mildly with the experience.

Getting help for troubled teens who have experienced childhood trauma depends on your ability to identify whether trauma has occurred. Here’s is some help:

Signs of Childhood Trauma

When trying to identify if your teen has suffered childhood trauma, it’s important to pay attention to their behaviors. While many teens act out in order to assert themselves and to figure out where they fit into the world, those with childhood trauma often exhibit symptoms like:

  • – Panic attacks
  • – Anxiety
  • – Hypervigilance
  • – Sleep disorders
  • – Lack of eye contact
  • – Depression
  • – Eating/food related issues
  • – Self-harm
  • – Extreme moods
  • – Trouble learning
  • – Sensory Issues
  • – An inability to sit still, or the opposite; feeling frozen
  • – Helplessness
  • – Developmental regression

Friendships and Relationships

  • Survivors of trauma often show the most obvious signs as they attempt to form friendships and romantic relationships.- Does your daughter struggle to trust others?
  • – Does she make friends easily, but then isolate or avoid them?
  • – Does your daughter seem to be a chameleon, taking on the personality or habits of whoever she is around at the moment?
  • – Does she have a strong, seemingly unhealthy, attachment to a friend or romantic interest?

Physical Illness

We are not compartmentalized beings. When an individual suffers trauma, it affects the whole being and can manifest in a variety of ways. Physical illness can be one of them. If your daughter is experiencing symptoms of illness and your physician says there is nothing wrong, don’t discount her words. Something more may be going on behind the scenes.

A word of caution: Sometimes, no matter how close you are to your daughter, she may not be able to articulate the trauma she has experienced. Sometimes people don’t remember past abuse. Our brain has a wonderful way of blocking memories that are too painful or difficult to process.

How Can You Help Your Teen? 

In most cases, childhood trauma isn’t something you’re going to be able to deal with on your own, and it may be beneficial for your daughter to get away from home and receive healing in a neutral location.

Many of the students at Greenbrier Academy can attest to the fact that a positive change of atmosphere, combined with the caring staff and healing environment of our campus were exactly what was needed to help them heal during a confusing time. Often, problems from childhood surface during teenage years and this is an excellent opportunity for the kind of emotional, mental and spiritual healing that will put your daughter on a healthy path to an extraordinary life.

If you are looking for a positive change and therapeutic environment, we invite you to give us a call at Greenbrier Academy. Our professional therapists specialize in help for troubled teens and use applied relationality to explore how past negative relationships and events affect present and future relationships. With a little time, we can help your daughter understand the traumatic event causing her current symptoms and help her change her perception of the event to positively alter her future well-being.

Teens who experience trauma are 15 times more likely to attempt suicide, three times more likely to experience depression and four times more likely to become an alcoholic. Learn to recognize the potential symptoms of childhood trauma and get help for your teen now.

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