When Adults were Abused as Children
The effects of child abuse last a lifetime. That’s why it’s so important to stop
it. When abused and neglected children become adults, they are more likely to
- Abuse their own families
- Attempt to solve problems in a violent way
- Have difficulty learning
- Have emotional difficulties
- Try to commit suicide
- Abuse alcohol and other drugs
Adults who were abused as children often feel that they are completely
worthless, damaged beyond repair, and not worthy of love or happiness. They are
more likely to struggle with feelings of extreme anger, social isolation and
shame. Depression is also common for them, as is post-traumatic stress disorder
(PTSD). And they often suffer from feelings of guilt.
In addition to the problems described above, adults who were sexually abused
as children also are more likely to experience sexual dysfunction and to have
poor body image.
Discussing these issues with a therapist can be extremely beneficial for
adults. Recently, a small pilot program called “Solace for the Soul: A Journey
Towards Wholeness,” was conducted in Midwestern Ohio. It lasted for 8 weeks.
Sessions focused on the ways that childhood sexual abuse affected spirituality,
such as feelings that God had abandoned them, releasing feelings of shame,
seeing the body as a creation that’s beautiful and seeing sexuality as a
life-affirming way of connecting with others.
All patients in the study experienced an improvement in their symptoms, which
included bipolar disorder, serious depression and anxiety and PTSD. The largest
improvements were for patients suffering from depression and anxiety. The
study’s author says she believes that focusing on these spiritual issues would
be helpful to patients who are in other types of therapy to deal with the abuse
they experienced as children.
American Psychological Association; ChildhelpUSA, Inc.; H. Kaplan,
B. Sadock, J. Grebb, Synopsis of Psychiatry, Williams and Wilkins, 1994;
M. Sullivan, Clinical Psychiatry News, Spiritualized Therapy May Lessen
Symptoms in Sex Abuse Survivors, March 2005.