Survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) are often at a higher risk of developing PTSD related to the trauma. PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder, and is a mental health problem that occurs in individuals who have experienced significant trauma such as CSA. PTSD can occur to anyone who has experienced an event that has personally traumatized them, however, not everyone who experiences trauma will show signs of PTSD.
Symptoms include reliving the experience, avoiding any place that is a reminder of the CSA, trouble sleeping or eating and many more. PTSD can be chronic, or it can last a short time. PTSD symptoms can be frightening and life-altering by interfering with their ability to enjoy their normal activities, go to work or school, or live their daily lives. 1-3
PTSD can develop immediately after the CSA or many years later
The diagnostic criteria for PTSD can be complex, but essentially, an individual with PTSD will commonly show symptoms that fall in the following categories:4
- Re-experiencing symptoms: These include bad dreams, frightening thoughts, or flashbacks of the trauma.
- Avoidance symptoms: Examples of these include avoiding places, people, or things that remind an individual of a past trauma. This can include avoiding certain emotions or thoughts that are related to the trauma.
- Arousal and reactivity symptoms: These include having outbursts of anger, trouble sleeping, startling easily, or feeling tense.
- Cognition and mood symptoms: Some of these include loss of interest in hobbies, feelings of guilt or blame, trouble remembering details of the traumatic event, or negative thoughts about oneself.
PTSD can develop in any individual, regardless of age, gender, the type of traumatic event experience, and how long ago the trauma occurred. PTSD and its symptoms can be manageable with additional support. Common management strategies for PTSD include individual or group therapy, counseling, and medications. If you or someone you know is showing signs of PTSD, it is important to seek help immediately.
- Ullman, S. E., & Filipas, H. H. (2005). Gender differences in social reactions to abuse disclosures, post-abuse coping, and PTSD of child sexual abuse survivors. Child abuse & neglect, 29(7), 767-782.
- Ullman, S. E. (2007). Relationship to perpetrator, disclosure, social reactions, and PTSD symptoms in child sexual abuse survivors. Journal of child sexual abuse, 16(1), 19-36.
- Schwecke LH. Childhood sexual abuse, PTSD, and borderline personality disorder: Understanding the Connections. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services. July 2009; 47(7), 4-6.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml. Published February 2016. Accessed December 15, 2017.