Emotional Consequences of Sexual Abuse

Emotional Consequences of Sexual AbuseSexual abuse causes long-term emotional and psychological consequences that can set the victim, and the perpetrator, up for a life of anxiety, depression and even substance abuse and addiction if not addressed comprehensively. Millions of people experience pain and anguish years or even decades after the abusive incident. With specialized and compassionate counseling and other services, these victims can be empowered to find full recovery and to live a rich and satisfying life.

Understanding Sexual Trauma

Sexual trauma can come from many different types of abuse, including the following:

  • Childhood molestation
  • Exposure to sexually explicit materials at a young age
  • Constant exposure to graphic sexual language or verbal abuse
  • Underage sexual behavior (even consensual)
  • Rape
  • Sexual harassment

Human sexuality is very closely connected to emotions, memory, self-esteem and personal identity. When a person is sexually assaulted, it cuts to the core of their sense of personal safety and value. Young people are often unable to process the emotions and thoughts that come with this kind of abuse, and adults who are sexually assaulted often choose to bury their feelings in an effort to forget all about the experience. This repression causes a variety of emotional repercussions connected to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that can haunt the victim for a lifetime.

The emotional consequences of sexual abuse are not limited to the victim. Young offenders are often haunted by confusion and guilt and will frequently self-medicate those feelings through drug or alcohol abuse.

Long-Term Effects of Sexual Trauma and PTSD

PTSD is caused by experiences that overwhelm a person’s ability to fully process them emotionally. While most commonly associated with experiences like battlefield violence, natural disasters and violent crime, sexual assault has much the same effect. Victims tend to shut down emotionally during and after sexual abuse as a sort of psychological defense against a full nervous breakdown. Until those memories and emotions can be fully understood and managed, the victim is likely to experience the following PTSD symptoms:

  • Flashbacks
  • Panic attacks
  • Sexual anxiety
  • Emotional distance from loved ones
  • Outbursts
  • Misdirected hostility
  • Nightmares
  • Self-medication through drug or alcohol abuse

These symptoms will often persist until victims experience comprehensive therapy that facilitates their emotional recovery.

Recovering from the Consequences of Sexual Abuse

While medication is sometimes needed for short-term treatment of intense cases of depression or anxiety disorders stemming from sexual trauma, the most effective overall treatment is usually some form of counseling. Specific techniques, such as dialectical behavior therapy, help victims to actively process their pent-up emotions and to become mindful and in control of their emotional responses to triggers. Great strides have been made in recent years related to the treatment of PTSD in general and in the understanding of how sexual abuse affects mental health. Resulting issues related to addiction and depression can also be treated quite effectively by innovative and holistic counseling and therapeutic techniques.

If you are a sexual abuse survivor and are ready to find healing in your mind and your heart, please call our toll-free helpline now. Our admissions coordinators are ready to help you take your first steps toward full recovery of your physical and emotional health by connecting you with the most successful treatment programs available. You deserve the best help available, and we can help you find it. Don’t allow yourself to be continually wounded by abuse that happened in the past. Break free. We can help. Call now.