How Trauma Rewires the Teenage Brain
By James Romero
Trauma is proven to affect regions of the brain that are responsible for stress as well as emotional and fear responses. When trauma occurs, especially during childhood, people are more likely to develop mental disorders and behavioral issues later down the line. But, how exactly does trauma affect teenagers?
During your teen years, your brain undergoes significant changes that affect not only the way you view yourself, but the way you view the world around you. As a result of neglect, trauma or abuse, teenagers and children develop coping mechanisms and strategies to satisfy needs that aren’t being met.
For example, when a child undergoes trauma, especially if it’s repeated trauma, their brain comes up with behaviors to help them survive in a high-stress environment, which eventually leads to altering of the brain. The parts of your brain responsible for fear and anxiety grow stronger while the logical and critical parts shrink. These four brain functions may counteract with each other and later cause difficulty identifying or interpreting emotional responses.
The neural pathways associated with fear and anxiety are so activated that the brain develops attitude changes and shifts in the way you perceive yourself and those around you. Long after a person overcomes the trauma or experiences that are responsible for these neurological changes, the coping/survival mechanisms developed due to the trauma endured remain. This can then result in uncontrollable reactions to specific triggers, violent tendencies, emotional distress and issues processing or trouble interacting socially as a defense mechanism. Trauma responses in teenagers include guilt, rage, severe anxiety, overreacting or feelings of intense depression.
Trauma affects teenage relationships whether that be romantic or platonic. It also can affect memory, performance in academics, abilities to perform in a workplace and in their personal life. People who have undergone traumatic experiences may either mature beyond their years or in some cases, be behind their age group in terms of emotions and behaviors. Their emotions may be unstable and the way they view themselves and others may be extremely negative.