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Adults Surviving Trauma

Understanding Adults Surviving Trauma

Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse
It seems you can’t turn on a TV or read the news paper these days without hearing about childhood abuse.

Were you a victim of child abuse?

Child abuse takes a wide variety of forms, and can range from mild to severe. Even competent parents make mistakes, and have challenges and difficulties. Abuse can occur inside the family, and with people who are not family members. By and large, it’s not unusual for several types of abuse to occur at the same time. For example, someone who is sexually abusive is often physically abusive as well. All childhood abuse often involves an adult or a person of authority who violates a child’s trust. Abuse can be classified as physical, psychological, emotional or sexual or any combination of the four types of abuse.

Child Abuse is Often Hidden

If you were like many survivors, you may have never told anyone about the abuse you suffered. You may have been threatened, shamed and or were too young to understand what was happening to you. Or, if you tried to talk to an adult about the abuse, you may have been ignored or minimized, or even punished for your disclosure.
Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is one of the most highly studied forms of abuse. The types of experiences can include everything from fondling to oral, vaginal or anal penetration.
Who Is an Adult Survivor of Child Sexual Abuse?

  • An individual who was sexually abused as a child is an adult survivor of child sexual abuse. This abuse may have had long-term effects on the survivor’s life. In most instances, the victim of the abuse never discussed the abuse with others while it was occurring. This individual is learning now, as an adult, to deal with the effects of the abuse.
  • Child sexual abuse occurs when a child is used for the sexual gratification of an older adolescent or adult. It also involves the abuse of power that an adult has over a child.
  • Sexual abuse occurs across all communities regardless of race, religion, cultural heritage, social or economic status.

Is Former Child Abuse Affecting Your Life Today?

Each individual’s experiences and reactions are unique to that individual. However, with so many survivors breaking the silence and talking about their experiences, it has become apparent that there are some responses to child sexual abuse that are common to many survivors. It is common for adults who suffered child abuse to retain feelings of guilt, shame, fear, anxiety and depression. Most experience persistent ideas about self-harm, and actual self-harm or suicide, to reduce emotional pain. Most adult survivors of childhood abuse struggle with feelings of extremely low self-esteem or self-hatred. Some survivors struggle with confusion in sexual orientation and preferences. They may have difficulty trusting, with intimacy and building lasting friendships. To avoid being hurt again, they may be controlling with others and have other behaviour that interferes with building and maintaining healthy relationships.

Thinking Alterations
If you have experienced abuse in childhood, you may see the world as a dangerous place. Because you have been powerless in the past, you may be highly fearful and overestimate danger and misfortune in your current environment. You may also underestimate your own ability in dealing with both real and perceived danger, and feel that there is nothing you can do. You may feel powerless to protect and provide for your children. Thinking alterations can also influence what you think about your life, others and the world. These thinking errors can contribute to your emotional distress and increase your risk for depression and anxiety disorders

Impaired Sense of Self
Individuals who have experienced childhood abuse often have an impaired sense of self. You may use the reactions of others to gauge how you are feeling about a particular situation. Because of this, you may be gullible and easily manipulated by others. You may be unable to establish appropriate boundaries, even with your loved ones, and are often the caretaker of others within your network of friends and family. An impaired sense of self can also increase the risk of re-victimization including rape or domestic abuse. Additionally you may have difficulty asking others for help, gathering a support network or taking advantage of support that is available. This can have direct implications for your emotional well-being.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Many adult survivors of physical, sexual or severe emotional abuse show symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). To receive a formal diagnosis of PTSD, there must be a discernible traumatic event, such as past sexual abuse. And there must be the following symptoms: (1) frequent re-experiencing of the event via nightmares or intrusive thoughts, (2) numbing or lack of responsiveness to or avoidance of current events, and (3) persistent symptoms of increased arousal including jumpiness, sleep disturbance or poor concentration. Adult survivors of childhood abuse are also at-risk to experience anxiety disorders, panic disorders, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). These anxiety-related symptoms are frequently associated with PTSD responses and altered thinking.

Dissociative symptoms/Avoidance
Avoidance is another long-term effect—one that is at the heart of many of the more serious symptoms. Avoidance symptoms can occur because they help you cope by temporarily reducing emotional pain. The first type of avoidance is dissociation. Dissociative symptoms often first appear during childhood, when they become a way to “escape” from abuse or pain. Adult survivors often describe how they were able to numb body parts at will, or how they would “watch” the abuse from above their body. Some survivors can still use dissociation to cope with uncomfortable feelings of intense contact with their others or during a challenging situation or event. Dissociation gets to be a problem, however, when you have no control over when this happens.

Anger
Anger, is another symptom of childhood abuse, includes chronic irritability, rage, and difficulties in expressing anger in a constructive way. Survivors may suppress their anger to such an extent that they feel they have no right to be angry with others. These suppressed feelings may eventually explode. Anger has obvious implications for relationships.

Physical Health Problems
The symptoms discussed above have been related to emotional and mental health.
Childhood abuse and trauma can have a fairly dramatic effect on physical health as well.
Adult survivors of childhood abuse go to the General Practitioner more and report more health symptoms. Abuse survivors were more vulnerable to stress-related illnesses, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, unexplained symptoms and aches and pains, fatigue and weakness. Chronic pain is one of the most commonly reported symptoms. The flood of stress hormones after a traumatic event sensitizes the body, and actually appears to lower the pain threshold, making sensations more painful. Pain syndromes related to past physical or sexual abuse are irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic pelvic pain, frequent headaches, and fibromyalgia

Get Help from a Qualified Therapist

Sadly, as noted above childhood abuse can affect every area of your life. Getting professional help is an important step to taking control of your life. When you turn to Steps To Rational Living, you will find a safe, supportive, non-threatening environment and the help you need to gain a better understanding what happened to you as a child. Your therapist will help you to explore the coping mechanisms you are using that might be a result of your childhood abuse, but are no longer adaptive and productive for you today.
You and your therapist can work together to develop new skills that will assist you in meeting your needs. Therapy can help you lessen the emotional and behavioural effects caused by your abusive childhood and allow you to move forward and to engage in healthy relationships, begin to raise your self-esteem and live a more complete and satisfying life.

Arrange an Appointment at our Bolton Office Today
Email: help@steps-to-rational-living.co.uk. Mobile: 07853192177 to schedule an appointment with a trained psychotherapist. Steps To Rational Living is conveniently located in Bolton City Centre Our office is easily accessible and parking is available 5 minutes from our location.

 

 

 

1. file A Guide To Fundamental Steps To Self Heal From The Invisible Scars of Childhood Traumatic Experiences (pdf)

 

 

2. file Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD)- Coping with emotional Flashbacks (pdf)

 

 

3. file Healing From Childhood Expereinces With The Power of Self-Compassion (pdf)

 

 

4. file PTSD dealing with Self blame and Shame in childhood sexual abuse survivors (pdf)

 

 

5. file Coping With DISSOCIATION And Flashbacks IN PTSD (pdf)

 

 

 

 

Please note: If you are thinking about harming yourself or someone else, please call 999 for immediate assistance.