How Trauma Presents Itself In Adolescent Girls

A 2016 Stanford Medicine article discussed that trauma may affect the brains of adolescent girls differently than it does the brains of boys. This study found structural differences between the boys and girls in the insula, a brain region that detects cues from the body and processes emotions and empathy. The insula helps integrate feelings, actions, and several other brain functions. The researchers found no difference in their control group. But in the groups who had experienced trauma, the boys showed a larger volume and surface area in the insula, while the girls showed smaller volume and surface area. This means that in treating trauma, it is important to take into account adolescent girls’ unique needs for treatment. 

What is Trauma?

A traumatic experience is any event in life that causes a threat to our safety and potentially places our own life or the lives of others at risk. As a result, a person experiences high levels of emotional, psychological, and physical distress that temporarily disrupts their ability to function normally in day-to-day life. Trauma can take many forms and can range from a parents’ divorce to being a victim of bullying to being in a car accident. Everyone processes trauma differently, but there are signs to be aware of if your daughter has experienced trauma.

Signs and Symptoms

  • strong emotions such as sadness, anger, anxiety and guilt
  • overreacting to minor irritations
  • repetitively thinking about the traumatic event and talking about it often
  • disturbed sleeping patterns
  • withdrawing from family and friends
  • wanting to spend more time alone
  • being very protective of family and friends
  • returning to younger ways of behaving including giving up responsibilities or a sudden return to rebellious behavior
  • increased need for independence
  • self-absorption and caring only about what is immediately important
  • loss of interest in school, friends, hobbies, and life in general
  • pessimistic outlook on life, being cynical and distrusting of others
  • depression and feelings of hopelessness
  • difficulties with short-term memory, concentration and problem solving

Adolescent girls who have experienced trauma may be triggered by sights, sounds, or memories that remind them of the event. It is important for parents and family members to understand the ways in which a teenager manages distress and trauma so they can support and help the young person. Many teens who have experienced trauma can benefit from working with a mental health professional who can help them learn coping skills and process their traumatic experiences. 

Asheville Academy Can Help

Therapy is not a one-size fits all technique. The wealth of Asheville Academy’s clinical expertise drives the success of our students and their families.  We meet kids where they are – using a skills-based approach and teachable moments as they start their therapeutic journey.  Our program thrives on strong collaboration among clinical, academics, and residential departments, along with family inclusion every step of the way.

Asheville Academy’s dynamic clinical approach reflects the unique and personal needs of the wonderful students we serve. We go beyond talk therapy and integrate therapeutic techniques that fit the needs of individual students. The positive changes that students make during their time at our program are a result of the strong collaboration of all of our departments and the inclusion of family in every step of the therapeutic process. For more information please call (800) 264-8709.

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