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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), describes trauma as “an event, or series of events, that causes moderate to severe stress reactions…[that are] characterized by a sense of horror, helplessness, serious injury, or the threat of serious injury or death.”

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), and is a mental disorder that could develop after a teen experiences trauma. It is defined by the Mayo Clinic as “a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event—either experiencing it or witnessing it.” Secondary PTSD, also known as vicarious trauma, secondhand trauma, secondary trauma, and PTSD by proxy, is the emotional distress that results when an individual hears about the first-hand trauma experience of another person (e.g., family member, close friend, neighbor, the stranger on the news, etc.). The signs and symptoms associated with secondary PTSD typically mimic those that present with post-traumatic stress disorder. Much like with PTSD, often the symptoms of secondary trauma interfere with a teenager’s ability to function in his or her daily life. 

Teenage Secondary PTSD Treatment

There are a variety of treatment options for an adolescent struggling with secondary PTSD. A teen with secondary trauma will likely require a customized treatment plan that may include a combination of different treatment modalities. Some of the psychotherapeutic options that could be integrated into a teen treatment plan for secondary PTSD may include, but are not limited to any of the following modalities:

  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): This utilizes guided eye movement techniques to help a teen process his or her memories, thoughts, and emotional associations in relation to the secondhand trauma
  • Creative arts therapy and expressive arts therapy (play therapy, art therapy, music therapy, drama therapy, sand therapy, etc.): this can provide the young person with a different medium to express, process, and integrate his or her thoughts and feelings surrounding the secondhand trauma
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): this can help correct irrational and/ or inaccurate thoughts a young person may have regarding secondhand trauma as well as help him or her develops skills and healthy coping mechanisms for reducing anxiety and stress 
  • Group therapy: participating in group therapy sessions can help a young person learn from peers that are navigating thoughts and emotions related to trauma and/ or secondhand trauma

It is important to bear in mind that there is no generalized treatment plan used for teens that have experienced trauma. Every person is different and will require a somewhat unique treatment plan when it comes to navigating the healing process from trauma exposure.

Further Information and Support

Navigating the challenges that arise from living with mental illness, struggling with substance abuse, and/ or addiction can not only be all-consuming but are often impossible to effectively handle without proper support. If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding mental illness, substance abuse, and/ or addiction we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. Bear in mind that you do not have to be on this journey alone. At {Upwell Advisors}, we offer unique, customized concierge therapeutic services to provide our clients with unparalleled support throughout every step of the recovery process. 

Feel free to reach to contact us anytime via email at sean@upwelladvisors.com. We look forward to supporting you on your journey.

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