It can be confusing when your teen seems traumatized over events like a friend’s car accident or a school shooting on the other side of the country. Experiencing trauma over events that happen to others is a real mental health concern called vicarious traumatization. Like any form of trauma, it requires professional trauma treatment to heal.
Foothills at Red Oaks Recovery offers care for teen trauma and other mental health concerns in adolescent males. If your teen struggles with vicarious trauma, don’t let them continue to suffer alone. Call us today at 866.300.5275 for more information on the programs available at Foothills at Red Oak Recovery.
What Is Vicarious Traumatization?
Most parents are familiar with the concept of trauma as the lingering mental and emotional effects of a dangerous or scary situation. However, the idea of being traumatized by things that happen to others is a less well-known mental health condition. A parent is right to wonder, “What is vicarious traumatization?”
The term “vicarious trauma” first started being used by mental health providers in the 1980s. It has also been called “the cost of caring.” It was first seen in first responders and other professionals who worked closely with trauma survivors.
Today, social media and smartphones make it difficult to go more than a few hours without exposure to tragedies and disasters impacting victims worldwide. Teens today are exposed to more pain and suffering daily than older generations have seen for years.
It’s not surprising that for some teens, the constant influx of catastrophe takes a toll on mental health.
Common Causes of Vicarious Trauma in Teens
Vicarious trauma usually happens when a teen feels a strong sense of empathy for the victims of a tragedy. This response is often coupled with fear of the same events happening to themselves or loved ones.
Common causes of vicarious trauma for teens today include:
- School shootings
- Gun violence
- Police brutality
- Sexual assault
- Car accidents
- War zones
It doesn’t matter whether a traumatizing incident happened to a friend or a stranger. When a teen is impacted by vicarious trauma, they may be hurting just as much as if the events had happened to them personally.
Signs of Vicarious Trauma
In many ways, the signs of vicarious trauma look similar to trauma experienced firsthand. These can include:
- Anxiety or depression
- Mood swings
- Anger or irritability
- Listlessness or disinterest in hobbies
- Poor school performance or attendance
- Social withdrawal
- Overwhelming fear
- Panic attacks
- Shock or numbness
- Physical pain
- Issues with breathing and heart rate
Teens often suffer vicarious trauma related to national or global news events, like the Uvalde shooting or the war in Ukraine. You might notice your teen obsessively following news stories or glued to their phone for more information.
It’s also common to see behavioral changes related to the traumatizing incident. For example, vicarious trauma caused by a school shooting may cause anxiety about school or even an outright refusal to attend.
Get Help for Teen Trauma at Foothills at Red Oak Recovery
Vicarious traumatization is a new concept to some parents. It can be hard to comprehend how a teen can be impacted so deeply by events that have happened to other people.
What’s most important is to understand that it’s very real and directly impacts your teen. A trauma therapy program can help you learn more about what your teen is going through and provide them with the help they need to heal and move forward.
Foothills at Red Oak Recovery is a North Carolina adolescent recovery center. We use a holistic approach to mental health recovery, helping our teenage male clients overcome mental health concerns. Our trauma therapy program is designed to address all forms of teen trauma, including vicarious traumatization.
When teens are connected to the mental health support they need to thrive, families heal, and futures brighten. Give us a call at 866.300.5275 to learn more about how we help teen trauma at Foothills at Red Oak Recovery.