An Integrated Approach to Young Adult Mental Health Rehab

PTSD/Trauma

Trauma and PTSD in young adults is more common than most people realize—and it can manifest as depression, anxiety, and co-occurring disorders like substance abuse and eating disorders. 

PTSD isn’t just something military veterans suffer from. In fact, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than two-thirds of adolescents have experienced a traumatic event, and those experiences can have long-term effects on young adult mental health.  

At Newport Institute, we understand that maladaptive behaviors in young adults don’t come out of nowhere, even if it seems that way. Coping mechanisms such as drinking, drug use, and self-harm are often signs of trauma that hasn’t been resolved. For young adults to heal from PTSD and trauma disorders, they need treatment that helps them build resilience, insight, and the courage to face the past—so they can move freely into the future. 

Symptoms of PTSD in Young Adults

Young adults may suffer from lasting psychological trauma after experiencing a frightening, life-threatening event—such as a school shooting, a serious car accident, a sexual assault, or a violent crime. But trauma isn’t always caused by a single, life-changing event. Ongoing chronic abuse, neglect or abandonment, or domestic violence in the home can also lead to PTSD in young adults. Moreover, the after-effects of trauma are long-lasting, negatively affecting daily life for young people throughout their formative years.  

Trauma and PTSD in young adults almost never resolves itself without treatment and support. In fact, the symptoms are more likely to grow worse if they are not addressed promptly using clinical approaches designed specifically to heal trauma. Furthermore, if trauma in young adults is misdiagnosed, they won’t receive tailored treatment targeted toward PTSD. That’s why a comprehensive mental health assessment is crucial for young people who are experiencing the symptoms listed below. 

Here are the 10 most common symptoms of PTSD in young adults: 

  • Flashbacks to the traumatic event
  • Panic Attacks
  • Confusion, lack of focus, and difficulty making decisions
  • Nightmares, insomnia, and other sleeping issues
  • Difficulty enjoying activities that were once pleasurable
  • Irritable or aggressive behavior
  • A feeling of emotional numbness
  • Edginess, hyper-alertness
  • Avoidance of anything that might trigger memories of trauma, including people, places, or situations
  • A sense of euphoria or heightened well-being
  • Suicidal thoughts.

Is it possible to have PTSD if you haven’t experienced a life-threatening event?  

Yes, because trauma isn’t always associated with a single event. Moreover, you don’t have to be directly threatened to experience trauma or PTSD.  

Just as the side effects of ptsd and trauma vary, trauma itself doesn’t always look the same. While some types of trauma are easy to recognize, others may be more subtle yet no less insidious.  


What are the causes of PTSD in young adults? 

When young adult trauma is directly connected to a single event, it’s easier to understand the cause. However, young people and their families don’t always realize how damaging such events can be. Therefore, they assume that the initial trauma will pass without therapeutic interventions—and this is rarely the case. 

When young adults have chronic or vicarious trauma, the causes may be more difficult to pinpoint. Often such trauma manifests in co-occurring disorders, leading to a diagnosis of substance abuse disorder or an eating disorder—and not all treatment programs seek to uncover the issues that underlie such diagnoses. 

Here’s a look at the types of trauma and their causes: 

Acute trauma

is a single traumatic event, such as a car accident or violent assault, which typically results in or threatens death or injury. The stress caused by acute trauma can last for days, weeks, or months following the traumatic event.

Chronic trauma

is ongoing trauma resulting from repeated traumatic experiences, such as childhood abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, and gang violence.

Vicarious trauma

also called secondary trauma, is caused by indirect exposure to frightening events or circumstances, through a close relative or even via media coverage.

“Relational trauma”

also known as developmental trauma or attachment trauma, is the most common type of trauma resulting in PTSD in young adults. Relational trauma refers to a disturbance in the parent-child bond, due to neglect, abandonment, verbal abuse, or shaming from primary caregivers. Research shows that relational trauma is an underlying cause of almost all psychiatric disorders, including PTSD, Borderline Personality Disorder, eating disorders, OCD, mood disorders, and substance use disorder.

Relational trauma occurs when there is consistent disruption of a child’s sense of being safe and loved within the family. This is particularly harmful, because the relationship between a child and their parent/caregiver plays a huge part in shaping who they will be as a young adult.

Heather Monroe, LCSW
Senior Clinician

Diagnosis and Treatment of PTSD in Young Adults

The first step in young adult PTSD diagnosis and treatment is a comprehensive assessment. In order for a mental health professional to make a PTSD diagnosis, symptoms must last for more than a month and be severe enough to interfere with daily functioning.  

  • Physical exam: To begin a trauma assessment, a physician will do a full exam and ask in-depth questions about the young adult’s general health to ensure that there are no underlying physical health issues. 
  • Lab tests: While there is no lab test to determine whether a young adult has PTSD, tests will help rule out any other factors contributing to symptoms of trauma or co-occurring disorders. 
  • Psychological evaluation: A doctor or mental health professional will inquire about your thoughts, feelings, behavior, and personal history. Your answers will help pinpoint a diagnosis and identify any related complications. 

Is medication the most effective treatment for PTSD? 

No. According to a 2019 study published in JAMA Psychiatry, patients with PTSD who received psychotherapy showed significantly greater improvement in symptoms compared with patients who were given only medication.  

Know the Facts

Approximately 44% of mental disorders with onset in childhood and 30% of adult-onset mental disorders are associated with developmental trauma.

Successful treatment for the psychological effects of PTSD requires treating the root causes, not just the symptoms. To begin the healing journey, young adults need support to uncover the traumatic experiences prompting their depression, anxiety, and/or self-destructive behaviors.  

What is trauma therapy? 

Studies show that the most effective trauma therapy techniques are trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). CBT helps clients change their thought patterns, beliefs, and assumptions about the trauma they experienced, while EMDR uses specific techniques to reprogram the brain. Exposure therapy gives young adults opportunities to work through the intense anxiety associated with trauma triggers. 

In addition, young adults need skills for navigating the long-term social effects of PTSD. Relational trauma and other types of trauma typically result in attachment issues, including difficulty forming close relationships. Children who aren’t able to bond properly with their caregivers can grow into young adults who lack the capacity to nurture themselves. Therefore, treatment for young adult PTSD involves helping patients develop self-acceptance and self-compassion. 

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Care at Newport Institute

Care at Newport Institute

Our Approach

At Newport Institute, our integrated approach combines evidence-based clinical modalities with experiential therapies and practices. We measure the success of our evidence-based approach on an ongoing basis, using third-party validation to determine the effectiveness of our treatment programs. Our research consistently shows that 100 percent of our young adult clients experience significant improvement in their mental health during and after their time with us.

As specialists in our field, we need to take into account every aspect of an individual—their physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual health, not just psychological. Here at Newport Institute we are committed to help people make the most meaningful and long-lasting changes by allowing them to look at a full picture of their lives and figure out which aspects are helping them thrive and supporting the meaningful life they want to be living, and which are not. Typically, if we change only one thing, it’s not setting the individual up for success.

Dr. Jennifer Dragonette, PsyD
Executive Director

Types of Treatment for PTSD

Clinical

  • CBT: Trauma-Focused CBT reduces negative thinking and helps young adults reconceptualize their understanding of the traumatic event or circumstances.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): DBT focuses on increasing mindfulness, self-regulation skills, and the ability to tolerate moments of distress and discomfort as a result of trauma triggers.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR works to resolve and release traumatic experiences through specific eye movement techniques that help the brain reprocess information.
  • Somatic (body-based) therapy: Somatic therapies seek to return the nervous system to a stage of balance after an individual has been in a prolonged “fight or flight” state as a result of trauma.
  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy: This type of therapy for trauma gradually exposes a PTSD patient to trauma triggers, either in real-life situations or through visualization, in order to reduce their fear and anxiety.

Experiential

  • Adventure Therapy: Through collaborative activities that present appropriate challenges, young adults gain a sense of empowerment and learn that they can count on others for support.
  • Yoga: Because traumatic experiences are trapped in the body, somatic (body-based) modalities such as yoga help young adults safely process and release painful memories.
  • Creative art therapies: Creative therapies support young adults in releasing trauma by expressing and processing their traumatic experiences through nonverbal approaches such as music, art, photography, and movement.
  • Equine-Assisted Therapy: Spending time caring for horses, with the guidance of a trained Equine-Assisted Therapist, helps regulate the nervous system and elicits positive emotions and the release of oxytocin, counteracting the emotional numbing that often results from trauma.
  • Horticulture and Culinary Arts: These related modalities focus on self-care and caring for others, both proven to enhance young adult mental health.
  • Adventure Therapy: Through collaborative activities that present appropriate challenges, young adults gain a sense of empowerment and learn that they can count on others for support.
  • Yoga: Because traumatic experiences are trapped in the body, somatic (body-based) modalities such as yoga help young adults safely process and release painful memories.
  • Creative art therapies: Creative therapies support young adults in releasing trauma by expressing and processing their traumatic experiences through nonverbal approaches such as music, art, photography, and movement.
  • Equine-Assisted Therapy: Spending time caring for horses, with the guidance of a trained Equine-Assisted Therapist, helps regulate the nervous system and elicits positive emotions and the release of oxytocin, counteracting the emotional numbing that often results from trauma.
  • Horticulture and Culinary Arts: These related modalities focus on self-care and caring for others, both proven to enhance young adult mental health.
  • Adventure Therapy: Through collaborative activities that present appropriate challenges, young adults gain a sense of empowerment and learn that they can count on others for support.
  • Yoga: Because traumatic experiences are trapped in the body, somatic (body-based) modalities such as yoga help young adults safely process and release painful memories.
  • Creative art therapies: Creative therapies support young adults in releasing trauma by expressing and processing their traumatic experiences through nonverbal approaches such as music, art, photography, and movement.
  • Equine-Assisted Therapy: Spending time caring for horses, with the guidance of a trained Equine-Assisted Therapist, helps regulate the nervous system and elicits positive emotions and the release of oxytocin, counteracting the emotional numbing that often results from trauma.
  • Horticulture and Culinary Arts: These related modalities focus on self-care and caring for others, both proven to enhance young adult mental health.

Newport Institute’s dedicated team is passionate about helping young adults to heal from trauma and PTSD. Call us today to start the journey toward a brighter future.

Marks of Quality Care

Our innovative approach to mental healthcare earns accolades from press around the world, but it is our dedication to our client success that has helped us achieve accreditation from The Joint Commission, exceed licensing standards of care, and nurture affiliations with the following:

Newport Institute

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