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What Is Secondary Trauma in Teens?

Hearing about other peoples’ traumatic experiences can cause emotional distress and behavioral changes. Children in the US endure various traumatic experiences, including natural disasters, bullying, domestic violence, and sexual abuse. Such trauma stories can cause behavioral and emotional issues in teens, impacting their quality of life. Seeking early professional trauma treatment can help your child recover from the effects of indirect exposure to trauma. At Destinations for Teens, we can help you understand secondary trauma and how to offer assistance to your loved one in such a condition.

Understanding Secondary Trauma

Teens can acquire traumatic stress through long-term contact with traumatized individuals, including family members and other children. For example, kids whose parents struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can suffer trauma. Indirect trauma can impact a teen in many ways. Therefore, you should be on the lookout for several warning signs, including:

  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Sleep troubles and nightmares
  • Hyperarousal and hypervigilance
  • Hopelessness
  • Worrying too much about other peoples’ suffering
  • Cynicism and anger

How the Condition Can Affect Your Teen

First, your teen may develop compassion fatigue, which occurs when teens take the caretaking role for an individual with PSTD. Frequent witnessing of trauma or being a caregiver can desensitize teenagers. While such teens may seem empathetic to the suffering of others, they may struggle with numbness. Another common effect is the mean world syndrome, where teens develop a cynical worldview due to the media’s information exposure. For example, it may happen to teens exposed to stories of murder, sexual violence, climate change, and natural disasters. Such children can view the world as dangerous because of the negative news, regardless of their environmental situation. Teens whose friends experience traumatic events might suffer from survivor’s guilt. While they may not be responsible for their peers’ suffering, they may wonder why the event occurred. Others worry about the outcomes and their inability to control the situation.

How to Help a Teen With Secondary Trauma

Secondary trauma in teens is an issue that parents need to address by seeking professional help. If left untreated, it can cause long-term mental, physical, and emotional problems. In most cases, people with secondary traumatic stress have anxiety and depressive disorders. They are likely to become disconnected and withdrawn. If you notice undesirable behavioral changes with your child, consult a rehab center to access quality care and various treatment services, such as:

Exposing your children to negative media can cultivate how they view the world. Avoid this by choosing inspirational media, which empowers the child to overcome secondary trauma in teens. Exposure to positive content can eliminate the undesirable beliefs acquired and help teens understand how to balance different worldviews. Individuals with trauma might feel hopeless and lose control of what is happening in their lives. You can educate your child to understand when events are out of control and how to react. Recognizing this can boost self-esteem and minimize fears. Develop a sense of safety. Cultivating internal control enables teens to understand whether the threats they face are real or not. The environment can impact a child’s behavior. Parents need to ensure kids’ safety and provide the necessary support for growth and development. Self-protection and self-care practices can also help teens deal with stressful life situations.

Contact Destinations for Teens for Expert Help

Struggling with secondary trauma can be an unpleasant experience. If your child has the condition, seek professional intervention immediately. At rehab, therapists are committed to providing the best care for their clients’ successful recovery. Contact Destinations for Teens at 877.466.0620 today to speak to our therapist.