Identifying danger is a critical component of our minds. It helps us recognize threats, assess dangerous situations, and essentially stay alive–but it can turn on you. It’s becoming clear that symptoms of stress in teens can agitate traumatic memories, making an individual evaluate a harmless situation as a harmful one.
This is called fear generalization and it’s a central part of anxiety disorders and PTSD. A new study shed more light on how this phenomenon comes about and how we can better treat it.
When past experiences taint current reality
This study brings us one step closer to understanding issues related to trauma, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Conducted at the University of Texas at Austin, researchers discovered that stress levels and the length of time since the incident can bolster the tendency towards fear generalization.
Further understanding how our minds have the ability to identify and respond to harmless stimuli as harmful stimuli is critical to understanding how disorders like PTSD function. It allows us to develop better therapies and treatment plans for those struggling with these types of mental illnesses and disorders.
In the study, the researchers delved into why PTSD seems to worsen when stress levels rise. It seems that in moments of heightened cortisol levels (the “stress hormone”), participants’ ability to tell between harmful and harmless stimuli was blurred.
There were two groups in the study. Each were played two tones; on one of the tones, they would get shocked. One of the two groups had heightened cortisol levels, the other did not. When played a range of tones immediately after the shock, both groups were able to discern between the harmful tone and the harmless tone.
But here’s where it gets interesting.
About a day later, they did the same test–playing a range of tones for the two groups. The group that had their cortisol levels raised had many more issues discerning between the harmful and harmless tones than the group that hadn’t.
This sheds some light on why symptoms of stress in teens have the ability to disturb their PTSD or traumatic memories. There’s still much more we don’t understand about the link between stress and memory, but this study has brought us one step closer to providing better treatments.
Solstice East treats symptoms of stress in teens
Solstice East is a residential treatment center for girls, ages 14 to 18. We understand the specific needs of girls, which is why our program is centered solely on them. Our students often grapple with depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, trauma, ADHD, and other emotional or behavioral problems when they come to us.
We have a strong emphasis on family therapy, nutrition, physical fitness. We also offer a supportive staff, cutting-edge academics, addiction therapy, equine therapy, and psychiatric services. At Solstice, we help set the stage for the infusion of light into the previously darkened lives of the families we serve.
For more information about how we treat symptoms of stress in teens at Solstice East, please contact us at 828-484-9946.