How Childhood Sexual Abuse Causes Physical And Mental Health Problems In Adults

Carrying trauma from your childhood is so draining and it has far-reaching effects on your physical and mental health. Many people experience flashbacks and PTSD symptoms after surviving sexual abuse as a child, but often, the impact is less direct. Even those that do not think about the abuse itself that much and assume that they are not affected by the trauma that much may experience a range of mental and physical health issues. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse do not always connect the dots and they don’t realize that the issues they experience are related to their trauma.

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Understanding what potential issues can be caused in adulthood can help survivors recognize when their trauma is affecting them. These are some of the most common physical and mental health issues caused by childhood sexual abuse. 

Depression

Depression is one of the most common mental health issues we face right now and there are a lot of reasons why people develop it in the first place. However, studies show that there is a strong correlation between people that experienced abuse as a child and people that suffer from serious depressive disorders. As an adult, attending depression counseling can help manage the symptoms and you may even be able to start unpacking some of that trauma.

However, research suggests that early intervention to support children is the key to avoiding this issue in later life. 

Substance Abuse And Eating Disorders 

Dangerous behaviors like substance abuse and eating disorders are also more prevalent in survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The symptoms of trauma are often difficult to manage, especially if the survivor does not have the support that they need. Many sexual abuse survivors also suffer from other mental health issues and it’s common for them to self medicate with alcohol or drugs. Eating disorders are often a way of gaining control over one aspect of their life because a person feels so out of control in other areas. 

Sexual Confusion

Sexual confusion is incredibly common in male survivors of childhood sexual assault. Boys that are abused by older men when they are too young to understand sexuality will be confused about whether they are homosexual or not. This confusion remains as they grow older and it can make it incredibly difficult for them to form meaningful relationships. 

Obesity 

We think of obesity as a fairly straightforward problem; if you eat too much, you gain weight. But it’s far more complicated than that and childhood sexual abuse often has a role to play. During a weight loss study, it was discovered that many of the participants that struggled to stop overeating had been abused as children. Further research in the area has shown that there is a direct correlation between obesity and childhood sexual abuse. 

If we are ever to deal with the issue of childhood sexual abuse and help survivors regain power over their lives, it is important that we understand just how much impact it has in adulthood. These are some of the most common ways that sexual abuse manifests in adulthood, but there are countless other health issues that it can cause.  

This is a collaborative post.

Melinda

21 comments

  1. Absolutely!

    Sadly, due to the common OIIIMOBY mindset (Only If It’s In My Own Back Yard), the prevailing collective attitude, however implicit or subconscious, basically follows: ‘Why should I care — I’m soundly raising my kid?’ or ‘What’s in it for me, the taxpayer, if I support child development programs for the sake of others’ bad parenting?’ Regardless of whether individually we’re doing a great job with our own developing children, we all have some degree of vested interest in every child receiving a psychologically sound start in life, considering that communally everyone is exposed (or at least potentially so) to every other parent’s handiwork. (And this is from a purely self-serving perspective.)

    Proactive measures may be needed to avoid later having to reactively treat (often with tranquilizing medication) potentially serious and life-long symptoms caused by a dysfunctional environment, neglect and/or abuse. And if we’re to avoid the dreadedly invasive conventional reactive means of intervention — that of governmental forced removal of children from dysfunctional/abusive home environments — maybe we then should be willing to try an unconventional proactive means of preventing some future dysfunctional/abusive family situations. Child development science high-school curriculum might be one way.

    I strongly feel that the wellbeing of all children in general — and not just what other parents’ dysfunctional children will cost us as future criminals or expensive cases of government care, etcetera — should be of great importance to us all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, it all starts with children. Proactive teaching is the only we can break the cycle of mental health issues later in life and also break the stigma around talking about our mental health. If kids start when they’re very young by talking about how they feel then it will become second nature and only the bullies will have something to say. For the most part, we can break the stigma after several generations of early intervention.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Trauma from unchecked child abuse typically results in the helpless child’s brain improperly developing. If allowed to continue for a prolonged period, it acts as his/her starting point into an adolescence and (in particular) an adulthood in which its brain uncontrollably releases potentially damaging levels of inflammation-promoting stress hormones and chemicals, even in non-stressful daily routines. In short, it can make every day an emotional/psychological ordeal, unless the mental turmoil is doused with some form of self-medicating.

    I believe the wellbeing of all children — and not just what other parents’ children might/will cost us as future criminals or costly cases of government care, etcetera — should be of great importance to us all, regardless of whether we’re doing a great job with our own developing children. But I’m not holding my breath, as I’ve found that most people are pessimistic and/or hostile towards such concepts. (To many people, they sound too much like socialism or communism.)

    Nevertheless, a psychologically and emotionally sound (as well as a physically healthy) future should be every child’s foremost right, especially considering the very troubled world into which they never asked to enter.
    _____________

    “It has been said that if child abuse and neglect were to disappear today, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual would shrink to the size of a pamphlet in two generations, and the prisons would empty. Or, as Bernie Siegel, MD, puts it, quite simply, after half a century of practicing medicine, ‘I have become convinced that our number-one public health problem is our childhood’.”
    —Childhood Disrupted, pg.228.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, Melinda, for sharing this collaborative post on the effects of childhood sexual abuse. It’s a topic most people are uncomfortable with and yes, it is uncomfortable but it needs to be discussed. It has so many far-reaching and lasting effects on adult lives and, for some (me included) it never goes away!

    I really wish I could be more positive and say it goes away — with time — and support. But unfortunately, it stays with me and it’s left a trail of broken relationships………..

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I, personally, feel that proactive measures may be needed to avoid later having to reactively treat (often with tranquilizing medication) potentially serious and life-long symptoms caused by a dysfunctional environment, neglect and/or abuse. And if we’re to avoid the dreadedly invasive conventional reactive means of intervention — that of governmental forced removal of children from dysfunctional/abusive home environments — maybe we then should be willing to try an unconventional proactive means of preventing some future dysfunctional/abusive family situations. Child development science high-school curriculum might be one way.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes, I agree. However, as with so many other things institutional and societal, that is more a reactive than proactive measure. Admittedly, it is a complicated matter.

            Liked by 1 person

      2. Some victims fair much worse. Such serious ACE trauma is often, if not usually, behind a substance abuser’s debilitating lead-ball-and-chain self-medicating. There’s a preconceived notion out there that drug addicts are but weak-willed and/or have somehow committed a moral crime. Ignored is that such intense addiction usually does not originate from a bout of boredom, in which a person repeatedly consumed recreationally but became heavily hooked on an unregulated often-deadly chemical that eventually destroyed their life and even that of a very caring loved-one. Rather, it likely resulted from his/her attempt at silencing through self-medicating the pain of serious life trauma or PTSD.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Though I’ve not been personally affected by the addiction/overdose crisis (in B.C.), I have suffered enough unrelenting ACE-related hyper-anxiety to have known and enjoyed the euphoric release upon consuming alcohol and/or THC. (I also understand the callous politics involved with this most serious social issue: Just government talk about increasing funding to make proper treatment available to low- and no-income addicts, however much it would alleviate their great suffering, generates firm opposition by the general socially and fiscally conservative electorate.)

            Liked by 1 person

          2. I agree, it’s a tough subject. If someone hasn’t been exposed to addiction and the effects it’s hard for them to see the need to intervene. Some local charities and churches here do what they can to help with the fund they have.

            Liked by 1 person

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