PTSD Resulting from Sexual Trauma

PTSD Resulting from Sexual TraumaPost-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental and emotional issue that has many adverse effects for any person who suffers from it. People suffering with PTSD are prone to substance abuse and other behaviors that can impact their life, including physical and psychological damage.

About Sexual Trauma

Sexual trauma is defined as an act that occurs when someone is tricked, forced, manipulated or coerced into any unwanted sexual activity. Any sexual contact between a child and another person is considered sexual trauma. For teens and adults, sexual trauma can occur because of several factors, including the following:

  • Use of physical force, violence, threats, intimidation, drugs or alcohol to force or coerce a person into sexual activity
  • Any sexual activity, which includes intercourse, touching or fondling, exposure to pornography or any other sexual experience that may or may not include threats or violence

While the definition of sexual trauma is broad-based, a very simple description is any unwelcomed sexual advancement of any kind.

About PTSD

There are three categories of behavior that are typical for a person who experiences PTSD as a result of sexual trauma: arousal, avoidance and repeated reliving.

For victims of sexual trauma who experience the arousal characteristics, they exhibit the following traits:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Exaggerated responses to things that startle them
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping

Some victims of sexual trauma attempt to emotionally numb themselves; these individuals are in the avoidance category of PTSD. They attempt to distance themselves from the experience altogether and exhibit the following traits:

  • Appear to not care about anything
  • Lack interest in daily activities
  • Limit their interactions with others
  • Avoid places, people, or objects that remind them of the event

Those people who demonstrate the avoidance characteristics appear to make up a larger percentage that turn to drugs and alcohol. This connection appears to be associated with their belief that they have no future or worth.

The third category of characteristics, repeated reliving, may occur in conjunction with either arousal or avoidance, or may be an independent reaction. These individuals exhibit the following behavior traits:

  • Frequent flashbacks of the sexual trauma
  • Constant distressing memories
  • Repeated nightmares of the event

About Hypervigilance

People who have experienced sexual trauma and have PTSD often display a behavior known as hypervigilance. Defined as an enhanced state of sensory sensitivity accompanied by an exaggerated intensity of behaviors, a person behaving in this manner is doing so in order to detect threats. In addition to constantly surveying their surroundings, hypervigilant people typically experience side effects that include the following:

  • Increased anxiety
  • Loss of connections with family and friends
  • Overreactions to unexpected noises
  • Increased agitation in crowded or noisy environments
  • Difficulty getting or staying asleep

The extreme fear and constant surveillance hypervigilant people undergo often leave them exhausted and alone.

Get Help for PTSD

If you have been sexual assaulted, you need to get help before the symptoms of PTSD arise. If you are already experiencing symptoms of PTSD, please call us before you turn to drugs or alcohol for temporary relief. There are several viable treatment programs for you, even if you have started to abuse drugs or alcohol, so call us any time of day at our toll-free number. Our counselors can provide information about different treatment options, and are available 24 hours a day to take your call.