5 Long-Term Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse

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Sexual abuse has been linked with higher rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders and substance use disorders as well as relationship difficulties in adulthood.

These issues may be compounded by additional factors. For instance, abuse histories can cause women to delay pregnancy and increase the risk of unintended pregnancies and health complications.

1. Isolation

Children who experience sexual abuse can feel dissociated from the world around them, similar to day-dreaming wherein the victim escapes his or her body and adopts another identity while dissociated.

Abused children often struggle to form healthy relationships with family and friends. They may become aggressive, withdrawn or clingy or develop behavioral issues such as bed-wetting, nightmares and fear of certain places or people. Physical symptoms like sore genital areas, infections and sexually inappropriate behavior may also present themselves.

Women who were sexually abused as children often develop increased anxieties regarding sexuality as adults and may find it hard to form intimate relationships, exhibit paradoxical promiscuity or downplay their sexuality – behaviors which can be hard to diagnose and treat without the assistance of trained mental health professionals.

2. Depression

Sexual abuse survivors may develop depression due to feelings of powerlessness. This may cause them to lose interest in life and even become suicidal.

Women who were victims of childhood abuse typically find it harder to form satisfying romantic relationships as adults, often turning to sexual promiscuity in order to exert some level of control over their situation.

Abuse victims disproportionately utilize health care services and have higher medical bills than other adults, experiencing various forms of physical pain, digestive symptoms, sleep disruptions and psychological ailments like depression and PTSD. Furthermore, they are at high risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases or HIV, and developing eating disorders.

3. Anxiety

Many survivors of childhood sexual abuse suffer from anxiety disorders. These can manifest themselves as feeling constantly on edge and alert, difficulty sleeping or nightmares, phobias or panic attacks.

Adult survivors can develop body issues in later years. They might feel dissatisfied with their appearance if the person who hurt them was someone they trusted; this could lead to eating disorders and/or obesity.

Sexually abused children often blame themselves for what happened, leading them to feel guilt and shame long after it has ended. This may make it more difficult for sexual abuse survivors to form meaningful relationships as adults; female survivors may even struggle getting pregnant due to chronic vaginal pain caused by this abuse as well as reduced pain threshold.

4. Self-Esteem Issues

Sexual abuse of children can create severe self-esteem issues, especially if their abuser was someone they trusted such as their parent or other relative or even coach or teacher.

Victims of Child Sexual Abuse may suffer from low self-esteem throughout their lives. They may believe no one wants them and instead only use them, leading them to avoid healthy relationships–including romantic ones.

People suffering from chronic schizophrenia also struggle to trust others and may act aggressively in an attempt to take control of their lives. This can create issues with work, friends and family as well as lead to reduced socioeconomic status – as well as an inability to participate in activities like sports or socializing with friends.

5. Behavioral Issues

Sexual abuse can result in numerous behavioral effects, including difficulties forming satisfying intimate relationships or finding reliable friendships, while women survivors may be at increased risk for pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS.

People with histories of child sexual abuse may face difficulty finding stable jobs and financial security, perhaps as a result of interpersonal relationship difficulties as well as poor family functioning.

Abuse may lead to eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, providing people with an outlet to feel in control or safe again by managing emotions more effectively and dealing with guilt and shame associated with child sexual abuse histories.