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Residential Treatment Center for Boys Ages 14-18

 > Behavioral Issues  > Relational Trauma in Teenagers: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
relational trauma - equinox rtc

Relational Trauma in Teenagers: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Most people think of trauma as something that happens only in cases of abuse or severe violence. However, trauma can occur in any situation where there is a significant disruption in the development of a secure attachment between a child and their primary caregiver. This type of trauma is known as relational trauma.  Relational trauma often occurs during periods of stress or transition in the family system, such as divorce, chronic illness, or death. It can also occur when there is a change in the primary caregiving arrangement, such as when a child is adopted or moves from their parent’s home to an extended family’s home. In some cases, relational trauma may be caused by environmental factors such as bullying or a lack of feeling safe and accepted in their community. Regardless of the cause, relational trauma can have lasting effects on a child’s emotional and mental health. 

Symptoms of Relational Trauma in Teenagers

The symptoms can vary depending on the individual teenager and the severity of the trauma. However, some common symptoms include:
  • Withdrawal from friends and family members
  • Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or worthlessness
  • Angry outbursts or disruptive behavior at school or at home 
  • Substance abuse 
  • Self-harm 
If you notice your teenager exhibiting any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek professional help as soon as possible. Left untreated, this trauma can lead to serious problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, addiction, familial conflict, and school failure. In some cases, it may even contribute to suicidal thoughts or behaviors. 

Treatments for Teenagers Who Have Experienced Relational Trauma

There are several different treatment options available for teenagers who have experienced relational trauma. One option is medication. In some cases, antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed to help stabilize mood and reduce symptoms. It’s important to note that medication should always be used in conjunction with other forms of treatment such as therapy.  Therapy is another treatment option that can be very helpful for teenagers struggling with relational trauma. Therapists who specialize in treating relational trauma often use a variety of techniques including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and attachment-based therapy. These therapies can help teenagers process their experiences and develop healthy coping skills for dealing with difficult emotions.  Family therapy is another treatment option recommended for teenagers struggling with relational trauma. This type of therapy can help families identify unhealthy patterns of communication and behavior and replace them with healthier ones. Family therapy helps by providing a safe space for family members to communicate and heal together. Through family therapy, family members can learn about healthy communication and conflict-resolution skills. They can also explore the impact of the trauma on their family dynamics. Family therapy may also help improve relationships within the family system and promote healing on an individual level. 

When to Seek Help

If your teenager is exhibiting signs of relational trauma, it’s important to seek professional help as soon as possible. There are many different treatment options available, and choosing the right one will require working closely with your teenager’s therapist or psychiatrist. With proper treatment, your teenager can learn to cope with their experiences and begin to heal the wounds of relational trauma.  Relational trauma is something that the highly qualified team at Equinox RTC work with on a regular basis. Understanding the nuances of teenage vulnerability and expression are critical in getting teens to process and work through all underlying issues. If you would like to discuss with one of our staff to see if Equinox RTC is right for you and your family, contact us today.