“Parents, teachers, educators, social workers should know the symptoms that children suffer from after surviving violence or harassment. This can help to recognize the problem in time, protect the child, assist him and notify the law enforcement authorities,” – said an expert of Sirius Project.
“Too often, I hear stories about adults who did not notice what was happening to their child, or explained disturbing changes in his behavior by temperament and age. Therefore, I will list 11 mental problems that children often face when they are victims of sexual abuse or harassment.
This list is not a diagnostic guide and cannot replace professional advice or treatment provided by My Canadian Pharmacy. I tried to combine the typical symptoms that cause people to seek the help of a therapist. The list is far from complete, and each symptom can be caused by other causes. Depending on the age, characteristics of the experienced trauma, temperament and stamina of each person, the symptoms may appear in different ways.”
Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse on the Victim
- Dissociation (a feeling of estrangement from yourself) is probably the most common defense mechanism by which the psyche tries to protect itself from the trauma caused by sexual abuse. The mind seems to escape from the body in situations of extreme stress, feelings of powerlessness, severe pain and suffering;
- Self-damage (self-harm). People who have experienced severe trauma inflict physical harm on themselves, trying to cope with the emotional and psychological pain that torments them. Studies show that cuts lead to the release of endorphins, which give a temporary feeling of peace and tranquility;
- Anxiety and fear. For survivors of sexual abuse, the stress response system is often too active. This is manifested in the strongest bouts of fear, social phobia, panic attacks. The body seems to be constantly on guard and cannot relax;
- Nightmares. Victims of violence, as well as war veterans, are plagued by obsessive painful memories and nightmares;
- Alcoholism and drug addiction. People who have experienced severe mental trauma often try to find solace in alcohol and narcotics substances. Experiments with drugs in adolescence cannot be considered normal, especially if the adolescent is aware of the possible consequences;
- Hypersexuality. This is a typical reaction to an early and traumatic sexual experience. If a child starts to masturbate very early, to show sexual interest (in games or in life), most often it is a sign that he has witnessed or participated in some sexual activities of adults. In adolescence and adulthood, hypersexuality can manifest itself in promiscuous sex, prostitution, and shooting in pornographic films;
- Psychotic manifestations. Sexual abuse in childhood often leads to paranoia, hallucinations and short-term psychosis;
- Mood swings, flashes of anger, irritability. Children often find it difficult to express their feelings in words, so they show them through actions. Sometimes adults behave this way. People who have experienced severe mental health problems often suffer from mood swings, irritability and brain disturbances that can lead to depression, mania, anxiety and outbursts of anger;
- Relationship problems, difficulties in maintaining long-term friendly or romantic relationships. Victims of harassment often cease to trust others, begin to fear people, so it is difficult for them to maintain long-term relationships based on mutual trust;
- Regression (mainly in children). Enuresis (night urination in bed) and encopresis (involuntary defecation), sudden and unexplained tantrums or outbursts of anger, unusual impulsiveness or an obsessive need for attention and other abrupt changes in behavior can often be a sign of that something awful happened;
- Physiological, psychosomatic and autoimmune disorders. Many doctors and psychotherapists wrote that trauma memories seem to be stored in our body because the mind pushes them away. In psychoanalysis, they are called unconscious since they often manifest themselves imperceptibly for the person himself. When something horrible happens, the mind is saved by using the body to express experiences that cannot be expressed in words.
Where can you get help?
- Pandora’s Project – Online support group and articles for survivors of rape and sexual abuse.
- The Significant Other’s Guide to Dissociative Identity Disorder – Lots of information for the family and friends of those diagnosed with dissociative identity disorders.