Now you have read the information about ‘what is trauma’ and the ‘differing types of trauma’, this page is for you as young people to understand your individual responses to the trauma you have experienced. Trauma can impact in many differing ways, it is normal to feel frightened, to have difficulty sleeping, having bad dreams, experiencing flashbacks to the event or that you feel anxious and jumpy a lot of the time. This page will outline how you ‘may’ respond to trauma, and how differing strategies and techniques may help you. This is not a list that fits all, please use this page to determine what your responses are, and what strategies or techniques you find helpful.
Let us first look at what can trigger you to consciously or unconsciously to be reminded of your trauma:
Our five senses are a significant trigger to you re-experiencing signs of your trauma which in turn may cause physical, emotional, and behavioural responses.
SeeYou may see a person who resembles a person from your past HearA song may remind you of the past, or a noise inside or outside of the home such as a car horn, a siren, a trigger could also be a T.V. programme or social media clip SmellA smell associated with the past will create a reminder, such as the smell of smoke, or a deodorant spray TasteA drink may remind you of the past TouchThe feel of a texture could be a reminder, clothes, sand, or if petting your dog
The way you feel after the event will be different for each person, there is not right or wrong way. The feelings and thoughts you may have could be confusing and upsetting which is normal.
What happens to the teenage brain when it experiences Trauma?
When a young person experiences trauma, their brain will adapt to survive.
The pre-frontal cortex is undergoing a huge period of growth and development which is in charge of decision-making, organisation as well as initiating behaviour. The emotional part of the brain the amygdala has more control during this time, emotions are more influential than the thinking and rationale brain.
The thinking brain and the emotional brain are in conflict when a young person has experienced trauma. This results in flashbacks and other trauma responses which we have described, resulting in neural pathways being hard-wired into responding in a survival response which if observed might be seen as the young person as acting out. An example might be, hearing people argue, this might result in a young person moving into a stress response and finding somewhere safe to hide and maybe use a distraction technique they have found helpful in the past such as putting on headphones and listening to music.
Flashbacks and Bad Dreams
Flashbacks are common when people have experienced a trauma. These are like mini video clips of the trauma you experienced and be so vivid, it may feel like it is happening right now. Nightmares are common after a trauma; some can be so intense that you wake up and can cause extreme distress.
Flashbacks and bad dreams are the bodies way of making sense of the trauma and trying to process it.
Watch this video to help you understand what flashbacks and bad dreams are and how to deal with them:
We have described later on in this page, emotional regulation techniques which can help you ground yourself and bring yourself back to the here and now.
Sleep music for Teenagers:
Fight, Flight, Freeze
The fight-or-flight response (also called hyperarousal or the acute stress response) is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival.
Walter Bradford Cannon (1932)
Watch this video to help you understand our survival response:
The Fight Flight Freeze Response (Video by Braive.com)
When we encounter a trigger from our past and the trauma we experienced, it can activate our survival response. It is important for you to be able to notice your stress responses, the potential triggers and what happens to you physically and emotionally. These will be your first steps during your path to recovery. Your challenge will be to learn to regulate yourself and remain in the best emotional place whereby you feel safe, happy, and calm. Dr. Dan Siegel describes a zone from which we can fluctuate dependent on our levels of stress. He describes this as the window of tolerance which identifies the zones in which we are able to function and deal with day-to-day stress or how the impact of severe anxiety or trauma can fluctuate between the differing zones.
Use the wheel to link your emotions to how your body responds (click to download). As well as different feelings, your body will also seem different to you which can feel really tough for you to deal with. You can share this with a parent, a friend, or a teacher to help them understand what you are going through.
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