Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Sexual Abuse

By: Cara Griffin-Locker

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that develops after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. PTSD is most commonly associated with those who have served in the war. However, PTSD can also be found in those who have suffered from sexual abuse. PTSD and sexual abuse are both sinister types of trauma that can affect anyone at any age from childhood to adult and often plays off the shame it instills in the victims. Victims of childhood sexual abuse are often too young to know how to vocalize or express concern, emotions or the need to seek help. Left untreated, PTSD can lead to depression, anxiety and a lifetime of agony.

In the U. S. Alone, one out of three females and one out of five males have been victims of sexual abuse before the age of 18 years.   The trauma that results from sexual abuse is a syndrome that affects not just the victim and their family, but all of our society. Sexual abuse, molestation and rape are such shame-filled concepts that our culture tends to suppress information about them.

Here are some symptoms that may help determine if you or someone you know are experiencing PTSD.

·         Reliving the event through nightmares or flashbacks. PTSD sufferers have very strong mental and physical reactions if something reminds them of the traumatic event. These physical reactions can be headaches, chest pain, dizziness, stomach pains or even immune system problems.

·         Avoiding activities, thoughts, feelings or conversations that remind them of the event.

·         Experiencing a loss of interest in important activities

·         Feeling all alone, having a hard time experiencing normal emotions or feeling like there is nothing to look forward to in the future.

·         Feeling like they can never relax and must constantly be on guard.

·         Experiencing trouble sleeping

·         Feeling irritable and overreacting when startled

·         Displaying angry outbursts

·         Having trouble concentrating.

Finding a skilled therapist is vital and the best way to get healing from the devastating effects of PTSD. . There are also support groups for PTSD as well as for victims of sexual abuse where you can talk with others who have been through similar experiences. There are many others who share the same pain and the good news is that there is help available. No one should - or has to - go through this alone.

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