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Residential Treatment Center for Boys Ages 14-18

 > Trauma  > Treating Trauma in Boys versus Girls: Equinox RTC Clinical Director Explains Differences

Treating Trauma in Boys versus Girls: Equinox RTC Clinical Director Explains Differences

Treating Trauma in Boys versus Girls: Equinox RTC Clinical Director Explains Differences

In my many years of experience working with both young men and young women, it’s become very clear to me the obvious differences in which both sexes react to trauma. Although trauma is pretty universal in the way it impacts traumatized individual’s brains, the ways in which boys and girls express their trauma outwardly differ greatly.

How does trauma impact the brain?

Trauma impacts the brain the same way across all people. It takes a normally developing brain and it catapults it back into the earliest stages of development by emphasizing the fight, flight, or freeze mechanism in the brain. The neurological focus of brain development for teens and adolescents takes place in the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is where all higher processes such as problem-solving, executive functioning skills, and abstract thought take place. Individuals who have experienced trauma will have a higher amount of brain development taking place in the brain stem. This is where the fight, flight, or freeze mechanism is located. When the majority of brain functioning is taking place in the brain stem, an individual will likely go through life imagining or fearing that there are horrors around every corner. It eliminates their ability to go through life in a healthy and comfortable manner.

Differences between boys and girls

Although trauma impacts all genders and sexes the same way neurologically, the ways in which trauma is displayed on the surface tend to differ. Here are a few ways in which these differences are displayed:
  • Externalization versus internalization. Boys often externalize their trauma by acting out or getting involved in substance abuse. Girls tend to internalize trauma and display this through struggles like depression, self-harm, and eating disorders.
  • Different ways to fill the void caused by trauma. Boys and girls deal with the pain which comes from trauma in different ways. Girls often deal with their trauma through addictive behaviors such as addictive relationships, misuse of social media, eating disorders, self-harm, and suicidality. Boys are more likely to turn to substances and may display addictive behaviors such as an addiction to technology,  pornography, and/or video games.
  • Verbal vs. physical. Girls tend to connect with others and learn new information verbally. They benefit more from traditional forms of therapy such as talk therapy because of their verbal strengths. Boys, on the other hand, connect with others on a physical and visual level. Because of this, a more hands-on, experiential approach to therapy is more beneficial to them.

Boys learn and heal differently

At Equinox, our program caters to the unique ways in which boys learn and heal. Traditional styles of therapy honor more of what girls need from a therapeutic experience than what boys need. Our therapeutic, academic and neurological interventions are designed to actively engage students in physical activity, movement, and exploration. These interventions lead students toward improved learning, healing, and neurological development. For more information about how Equinox RTC can help your son, please call (877) 279-8925.