Mental health issues and childhood trauma are two of the most common reasons why young adults struggle to launch into independence after high school. In particular, people who have experienced trauma usually adopt the belief that many things in their life have been and will continue to be out of their control. They have to make this distinction in order to not blame themselves for circumstances they’ve experienced. But, over time, this can also translate to “my grades are out of my control,” “unemployment is out of my control,” and “I can’t help the way that I have to cope with my emotions.” This generalized sense of helplessness and lack of autonomy explains why many people with PTSD have struggled with failure to launch.
How Does PTSD Affect Sense of Self?
Many people who have experienced a traumatic event unconsciously try to separate themselves as who they were “before” and “after.” They are more likely to have an unstable sense of self and lack clarity about what it is they like and what they’re good at. Addiction specialist Gabor Mate explains “trauma is not about what happened to you, but the disconnection from yourself that happened as a result of whatever the stressor was.”
As trauma shapes one’s belief system about themselves, the way they interact with others, and their role in the world, many young adults experience low motivation and self-esteem as they launch into adulthood. Developing a support network and integrating into the community is integral to reshaping these beliefs and exploring one’s true core values.
How Does PTSD Affect Failure To Launch?
Many young adults who have experienced trauma struggle with ongoing feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, which can directly lead to failure to launch into adulthood. Whether they feel unmotivated to pursue a career path or struggle with identity issues and confidence in relationships, the idea of independent living often feels overwhelming, even after completing a residential program. Feeling detached from a sense of purpose can make it difficult for young adults to set personal goals, let alone realistic ones. Instead, they may rely on other people to set expectations and rules for them, as it is easier to follow other people’s lead than to reflect on what their personal wants and needs might be.
Over time, letting other people make decisions for them presents more challenges rather than freedoms, as they get back into a place of feeling like their life is out of their control and dictated for them. While a history of trauma can affect one’s ability to feel a sense of achievement and their confidence in their ability to achieve their goals, setting shorter-term goals can help young adults imagine what they want their future to look like.
Addressing PTSD Can Help Young Adults Become More Independent
Healing from trauma is not a linear process. Young adults who have experienced trauma may feel more secure when they are working through trauma in a residential setting, but become more overwhelmed when faced with the triggers of the “real world.” This may lead to increased fear about failure to launch and the belief that they will be unable to integrate back into the community successfully.
The challenge of recovery from trauma is to reestablish ownership of your body and mind–of your self. This means feeling free to know what you know and to feel what you feel without becoming overwhelmed, enraged, ashamed, or collapsed. While they may not be able to always change what they feel, by taking ownership of their life and their decisions, young adults can feel more in control of how they respond to their emotions.
Young adults will find themselves looping back to different stages over time. This does not mean that they have not made progress in moving forward. They may feel flooded at unexpected times. Step down programs acknowledge that healing occurs in phases and recognize the importance of creating a “trauma work”-life balance as they transition to independence. Weekly schedules are based on individual goals and responsibilities, which gives young adults the opportunity to take back ownership of their life step by step.
Journey Home Young Adult can help
Journey Home Young Adult is a transitional living program for young women ages 18-23. This program addresses emotional, behavioral, and mental health disorders that young women may face. Common presenting problems include depression, anxiety, attachment issues, academic struggles, and low self-esteem. Journey Home creates an environment conducive to healing where young women can learn healthy coping skills while becoming more well-equipped to launch into adulthood. Students leave this program feeling empowered, happy, and healthy. We can help your family today!
Contact us at 855-918-0032 to learn more about our step down program for young adults who experienced failure to launch related to PTSD.