Mental health issues have become much more frequent in recent years. And while this has largely been attributed to the rise of COVID-19 and the isolation that the pandemic has caused, there are far worse causes of poor mental health in the world today.
Any type of abuse can cause a host of mental health problems. But perhaps the worst of all concerns the long-term effects of sexual abuse.
Unfortunately, sexual abuse is a huge problem throughout the country and the world, and this often affects women more than men. But regardless of gender, the abuse itself can cause mental health issues that can last for years, if not for an entire lifetime.
Sexual abuse occurs in households, at school, at work, among friends, and sexual abuse by church clergy is also a huge issue among many religious communities.
No matter where the abuse occurs, this act has been known to cause debilitating mental health issues that may not manifest for many years but can hinder a person’s ability to function in society.
Here, we’ll explore 3 major mental health issues that are known to arise from sexual abuse
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD has been largely placed in the spotlight due to the horrors that military service members face during war and combat. However, post-traumatic stress can be a direct result of any type of traumatic event.
Sexual abuse causes mental (and often physical) trauma. And when the abuse occurs repeatedly, this can only heighten the effect of traumatic stress that one endures.
After an incident of sexual abuse, a victim may not realize the mental trauma for many years. But this is a condition that can slowly manifest over time. And ultimately, a victim can be triggered by a specific action, sound, smell, or sequence of imagery.
The human sensory experience is very powerful, and in fact, some of our most primitive senses seemingly have a memory of their own. When traumatic memories are activated, this can result in an episode of post-traumatic stress. Some of these episodes can last for days or even weeks.
2. Social Isolation and Withdrawal
Perhaps one of the biggest indicators or a recent act of sexual abuse is that the victim seems to withdraw from social events and tends to isolate themselves even around close friends or family members.
This is especially true if a victim of sexual abuse undergoes the abuse at an extracurricular function, and never returns to the place where the abuse occurred such as at a school, or a church.
When sexual abuse happens in the home, this can cause even worse complications regarding isolation and withdrawal. In the case that a victim is a child or an adolescent, he or she might run away from home or stay away from specific family members.
If a sharp change in behavior is noticed that includes social isolation and withdrawal, this is considered by experts as a tell-tale sign of possible sexual abuse.
3. Depression & Suicidal Thoughts
In some of the worst cases of sexual abuse, particularly with repeated sexual abuse, a victim may sink into depression and become suicidal.
If a victim of sexual abuse reaches this point, other factors also come into play such as developing eating disorders that correspond to severe weight loss or gain.
Nightmares, sleeping disorders, and overwhelming anxiety may also play a factor as well. And as depression worsens, the thought of taking one’s own life might become validated in a victim’s mind as the only way out of the despair they feel.
Suicidal thoughts are common among victims of sexual abuse, and this becomes even more apparent if the abuse happens during childhood and continues into adolescence. Some victims may attempt suicide repeatedly throughout their lives, all as a direct result of the mental anguish caused by sexual abuse.
Abuse comes in a variety of forms, but none truly leave the physical and emotional scarring that a case of sexual abuse can manifest. If you know someone who has endured sexual abuse and is developing mental health problems, you should urge the individual to seek professional help immediately.