Contrary to what you may have read in the popular media or seen on television, survivors of trauma often go on to break the cycle of abuse and lead rich, fulfilling lives. Therapy is one powerful way to make this outcome more likely to happen.
You are not alone
Far too many children & adolescents have experienced incest and/or sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical trauma and neglect. While reports vary as to frequency of sexual abuse, generally established estimates range from 1 out of 3 or 4 women and 1 out of 6 or 7* men. Rates of physical abuse and neglect are more difficult to establish as they are less reported, yet we know these are significant trauma in the lives of children and adolescents.
Witnessing trauma done to others is also potentially harmful. All trauma constitutes a national failure to protect children and adolescents.A description of some symptoms that survivors may have is listed below, grouped in two categories, although not all survivors will have all symptoms.
Your response to trauma is normal
One can think of trauma effects as either intrusive (interfering with daily life) or numbing (leaving one feeling numb to ongoing experience). All of the listed symptoms, although distressing and perhaps sometimes disabling, are considered NORMAL responses to trauma.
Intrusive symptoms and experiences may include:
- panic attacks
- rumination (particularly feelings of shame and guilt)
- bodily responses to chronic stress
- anxiety and depression
- acute lack of trust in others
Numbing effects may include:
- a sense of watching life from behind a screen (dissociation)
- an inability to experience pleasure
- difficulty motivating the self
Sometimes numbing may be desperately sought thru the use of alcohol or drugs, self-mutilation, eating disorders, over-exercising, compulsive sexuality, workaholism or thoughts of suicide in an attempt to control painful feelings (see references at end of section for more comprehensive descriptions).
Start healing with therapy for sexual abuse
Healing takes place within a relationship of support. For this reason, I strive to maintain a safe environment, build a trusting relationship, recognize the survivor as the expert on her/his own experience, respect boundaries, and work together with my client at a pace respectful of changing needs and capacities.
It is my understanding that all symptoms, many which may feel disconnected to the abuse, arise as ways to survive. Therefore, psychological healing involves empowerment, reconnecting to the body (as a sense of a physical self may be left during the abuse) and reclaiming wholeness of the self: mind, body and spirit.
If you are reading this page, perhaps you are concerned about the effects you or someone you love have experienced. When a survivor becomes “frozen in time” there may be parts of the self that continue to feel and behave as if the abuse or neglect were still continuing, while other functioning is relatively unaffected. At the same time, and often underappreciated, there can be significant personal strengths honed in the face of trauma. This combination of problems and strengths can feel extremely confusing to self and others, including professionals untrained in trauma.
Psychotherapy, where there is trust, can be a place for “thawing”. One can free the self from troubling effects of trauma and move into growth: from shame, guilt and “living in trauma-land” to what has been called “survivor pride”.
Get help today
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If you are interested in learning more about sexual abuse and its effects, visit this website on the consequences of abuse.
* Note: All statistics are open to distortion due to factors such as underreporting, differing definitions of what constitutes abuse, etc. What we do know is the clear knowledge that abuse happens far too often.Please share this post!