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Nancy Schimelpfening

Sexual Abuse Has Long-Term Effects

By July 13, 2010

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Sexual abuse is linked to a variety of mental health issues, including suicide attempts, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, eating disorders and sleep disorders, according to researchers.

When Dr. Ali Zirakzadeh of the Mayo Clinic and his team did a systematic review of all relevant research between 1980 and 2008, they found a statistically significant association between all of these mental health disorders and sexual abuse, even when they controlled for such factors as the victim's gender and the age at which the abuse took place.

"Survivors of sexual abuse are commonly seen in general medical practice," said Zirakzadeh in a statement.  "Sexual abuse survivors face a challenging spectrum of physical and mental health symptoms, which results in high healthcare ulilization, oftentimes without improvement of quality of life."

"The good news for patients," added Zirakzadeh, "is that physicans are now more aware of the link between abuse and psychiatric illness so that abuse survivors may be more readily identified and referred to specialists for treatment."

The findings appear in the July 2010 Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Comments
July 14, 2010 at 2:48 am
(1) sanday says:

Hi,
Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.
Thanks.

July 14, 2010 at 4:07 am
(2) abused says:

o i agree, but how do teach adults that it is not ok to do unthinkable acts of sex to children?

July 14, 2010 at 8:32 am
(3) Becky says:

SOOO…who paid for this study? Sexual abuse survivers experience problems later in life…they really needed a study for this? And who will do a study of the color of the sky on a non-overcast, cloudless day? Give me a couple million and I can bet that I will tell you it is blue. This syudy should be followed up with a study that shows that the oil spill in the Gulf hurts marine life…

July 14, 2010 at 8:36 am
(4) Sandra says:

I lived through sexual abuse starting at age 4 years. I have dealt and still am dealing with depression, anxiety disorder, and PTSD. I am currently ready to start going off some of the medication that I have been taking in order to just cope with everyday life. It has been a long haul and took years of counseling to deal with the long-term effects of the abuse. I am no longer the victim but the survivor. For the first time in my life I am the one in control and it feels very good!

July 14, 2010 at 9:34 am
(5) ellin says:

I have been in treatment and on medication for bi polar depression, compusive eating disorder and a bevy of other problems steming form my childhood abuse: physical sexual and mental. Currently working with Christ centered Recovery I have seen the best results yet. A twelve step program with personel counciling and medication has helped me. My goal Like Sandra is to live med free and experience life in reality.

July 14, 2010 at 11:43 am
(6) Vee says:

I was sexually abused between age 10 and 16 1/2 by a neighbor. I got a part time job that began as soon as I got out of school which enabled me to be out of the neighborhood and in a safe place. During my Senior year I was a business student and went 1/2 days and got a full time job with a little clothing shop close to home. The pay was amazing and I had health and dental benefits. Just after graduation my employer decided I was responsible enough for the Manager’s position. With this came another raise and the use of a car. I could afford to have my own place and proud of my independence. I had put the abuse behind me and felt stronger as a person. Soon I was being asked to meetings with my boss to discuss things that had nothing to do with the job. I’ll never forget the sick feeling that washed over me that night and why is this happening to me again. I told him I wasn’t interested in him that way and he became extremely violent. I was told he could have me thrown in jail for anything he wanted since he was the owner of the store. He said he would make sure I lost my apartment, my health benefits, the car and I would not get a good reference for a job anywhere in the area. All I could think of was how can this be happening to me again. It started slowly with lunch away from the office a couple of times a week but he had not tried anything. Then the lunches turned into drinking lunches and the trips back to the shop ended up somewhere isolated. All I could do was cry when he attempted to touch me, it turned out that he enjoyed the fear I showed and would take care of himself as I sat in horror. I was so ashamed I couldn’t tell anyone nor could I go to the police because he hadn’t touched me or made me touch him only watch. I couldn’t go back to work after this and I’d decided to quit and sent in my resignation. A day or so later I had been out looking for another job when I received a letter from him stating how sorry he was and inappropriate his actions were and offered me a raise with no more advances, strictly business. Wanting to believe him and not having any luck with another job I went back. The biggest mistake of my life. He not only started harassing me again, he practically owned me and knew every move I made when I was not working. I had no personal life I was just a zombie and knew I could not go on like this much longer, I wanted to die.I was having health problems, nausea, back problems, migraines and in order to endure being around him had begun to drink so I could black the whole thing out. Just when I was about ready to do something to end this, I met a young man who stumbled into my life and gave me the strength and courage to do what I had to do for myself and women who were in similar situations. I quit the job and applied for unemployment, when asked why I quit I simply stated that I was being sexually harassed and had been for almost 6 years and listed several other women that had worked there and quit and were denied unemployment because they were too afraid to put down the real reason of being sexually harassed. Not only did I get unemployment, the women who had been denied were suddenly being granted their benefits and within the next year, he could not keep any staff and his shop went out of business. The young man who stumbled into my life is now my husband of 23 years and had he not come along when he did, I was prepared to do something stupid. He literally saved my life and I am forever indebted to him. He treats me with respect and got me to open up about everything, no longer the victim but a survivor. I’ve been asked a few times to talk about my ordeal and each time I do, I grow stronger and hopefully those who listen will gain the strength and courage back to talk about how they are no longer victims but survivors and will continue to fight against abuse of any kind.

July 14, 2010 at 6:57 pm
(7) Neal says:

Oh no, does anyone remember the 1980s? Therapists were coming out of the woodwork convincing depressed people they had been molested as children. When some resisted, therapists started spouting “repressed memories”. Families were destroyed and and people who needed treatment were worse off than before seeing the “therapist”. What finally stopped this mess was when someone looked at the stats and saw there couldn’t be that many child molestations compared to earlier studies. Repressed memories were also disproved in scientific studies. Yes, children are molested and it is terrible. But don’t start looking for some traumatic event in the past to explain a current depressive episode. We know today that depression often has a physical cause in the brain. Talk therapy and medication works. Dwelling on 20 year old or more events that may not even have happened is destructive to the patient and the field of mental health.

July 15, 2010 at 12:32 am
(8) Theresa says:

There IS absolutely repressed memories! Anyone who says there isn’t, has probably never been severely abused by a family member! It took me until the age of 36 to remember the horror that I endured! I am 38 now, and I still struggle daily. Please, don’t criticize or condemn something that you know nothing about. It is devastating to learn and remember the things that happened to you, by the ones who should have protected you, and loved you!!! Please–THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK!

July 15, 2010 at 8:35 am
(9) Ellin says:

The abuse I suffered was of such length and severity that I compartmentalized some events, building walls, rooms and even whole houses around the memories so that not only would I not be accountable for remembering them but that another person would be the holder of much of the memory. Going back and finding the rooms,tearing down the walls and demolishing houses has given me back my my childhood. Now I deal with them: smell the smells, feel the hurts and stay for the accounting of what acutally happened. Sometimes I lost the memories because it was easier to survive that way but often I was told it did not happen by the perpetrator or that I was told not to tell anyone. In houses built on secrets repressed memories are the norm and the expected.

July 21, 2010 at 11:55 am
(10) Debra says:

Those of you who have made fun of this study have obviously never been in this position. And for that, I am grateful. I moved through a lot of similar situations as those already commented on. But as a 56 yo woman whose father is now dead, I still have flash backs. I got up this morning and saw my husband’s belt laying on the floor. And I had an immediate panic attack from remembering my father’s belt. I think I was about 3 or 4 when I remember being balled up in a corner, trying to avoid a beating from his belt. He went on to sexually abuse me in my later years. And I blocked those memories out for several years. It came flooding back one day and now I remember it as though it was yesterday. My mother is well aware of it, but has lied about it to save face. The people who are supposed to protect us, our parents, sometimes think it’s better to cover it all up and make sure we never tell, than it is to get the help that is needed. And when I finally told my brother about it, my mother said I was a liar. I now have no relationship with my brother or my mother. It’s taken a long time to be this strong, but I finally have the peace I so desperately needed. There’s so much more I would love to say, but no one needs a book about my life. What I basically want to say is that there is a sisterhood (with a few brothers) of us, and I hope with all of my heart I can find a way to help children going through sexual, verbal and physical abuse now.

July 22, 2010 at 12:49 pm
(11) donna chrysostom says:

Yes, because of my child hood incest abused I have major depression and will be on Anti depression for the rest of my life.

July 25, 2010 at 9:33 pm
(12) Penny says:

Child Sexual abuse stays with you for your entire life. I have suffered life-long and deep depression. I am currently medicated and find I need this to function.

There is hope, I know this but still each day struggle to remind myself of it!

Best of Luck and Love to those who choose to struggle with it!

December 22, 2010 at 1:12 am
(13) dianne says:

l call it men hatred, its a total inability 2 trust.
l have arranged help for the abuse l went through at age 8.
lets see if these counsellors can really help me. lm 36 now and have never been able 2 hold down a normal relationship with a man. my sisters abuse was far worse and when she drinks around her husband all the hate comes out and occasionally so do the kitchen knives.

May 5, 2011 at 4:23 pm
(14) julia says:

I was abused around the same age as you and I’m now 34 . I too have never been able to stay in relationship and never released it was due to my abuse trust issue that was the oroblem so when my last long relationship ended I broke down lost weight could see my bones I was that slim this was 5 years ago . I never told anyone about my abuse apart from my ex about this abuse and only told him as I used to wake crying with bad dreams.

Now 5 years on I started dating and still no trust so we parted . I never reported this abuse to police but yet again I broke down went to doctors then mental health who advised me I wasent mental I needed to report this abuser and seek counciling. I rang a close friend and just broke down and told her everything then as I fealt I’d told someone even though she was my friend I needed to go police.
I did and there wasent enough evidence as my ex refused to get invloved when police spoke to him and even my own parents and sister erefused to speak with police . Maybe they where scared but I come from a non loving family let’s just say my friends are my family.
I since have suffered loss of jobs and find it hard going out socaily . Had councelling once but she hadn’t even been abused so there just there to act like robots.

I am trying to survive without medication as I only have one or two bad crying outburts say every 3 month but its the trust issus I’ve given up on . I don’t think I will ever beable to have a relationship again if I do the guy needs a gold medal . Its so hard sometimes been alone with noone

Noone ever uderstands a abused individual they think were crazy but we ve done nothing wrong yet get punished for life .

February 24, 2011 at 2:41 am
(15) Amber says:

I was sexually abused as a child by two men (my step-father and his brother). I was afraid to ever tell anyone and it went on for 13 years until my mother divorced him. I’m never going to be over it. I want justice and I will never receive it. I am never going to be over it. I’m never going to be able to look at men in a positive way. I’m terrified of them. 21 years old and afraid of men, how pathetic is that? I just feel like something is wrong with me and I’ll never be “normal” like other females out there.

March 27, 2011 at 10:00 am
(16) Mike says:

After I got married, my wife let me in on all kinds of secrets. First is that she was raped in high school. Then I found out she had attempted suicide. From there, I learned she’s borderline OCD (also a police officer). Recently she told me she was molested by her father and another relative. It certainly explains a lot. After we got married she said, “Now that we’re married, I can tell you…. I’ve slept with a number of women.” She also told me she had 3 “boy toys”, with one almost half her age. If you’ve been abused, please be open with anyone you’re involved with. I had previously been involved with one other woman who was abused as well and had I known all the above up front, I wouldn’t have married my wife. She’s working hard on “us”, but each day is a battle with communications, trust, and other issues that have stemmed from the abuse. While it’s horrible anyone has had to go through it, I feel if you can’t be honest up front about what’s happened with a potential partner, then you’re still suffering from the abuse and it’s not fair to the other person.

May 15, 2012 at 2:20 pm
(17) JHC says:

“Noone ever uderstands an abused individual they think were crazy but we ve done nothing wrong yet get punished for life “. So true. I even told my mother about it. But what does she do? She marries the guy (he was an old family friend and former neighbor). So, feeling nothing but shame, I suffer from life long depression and have suicidal thoughts pretty much every day. I want nothing more than to have a normal and fulfilling life. But, even though it happened over 20 years ago, I don’t think I’ll ever be normal and I don’t ever see myself being strong enough to get myself out of this isolated hell I keep myself in. There are just too many issues that have been left unresolved, so there is no closure. This may sound weird but I think my mother’s reaction is what hurts the most and has done the most damage. However, after reading the comments from others and seeing I am not the only one who still struggles I am able to find a little bit of comfort.

September 28, 2012 at 6:47 pm
(18) M. Leavesley says:

You sound very much What my wife is going through.
She too feels isolated and suffering alone.
She doesnt believe that she will ever feel’normal’ again and that the girl I married and had children with, has gone forever.
T

October 29, 2012 at 11:16 pm
(19) debbie says:

hi ya just a quick chat i was raped from th age of 5 up to the age of 13 from my stepfather and grandfather i think i suffer from a mental heath nobody whats to no always feeling susidal
i feel like shit nobod y understands and i feel nobody cares family just trieds to push under ther carpet never allow to say anything not on any medication because of pass sucidal 3 times

November 6, 2012 at 6:54 pm
(20) Cynthia says:

I was sexually abused by my brother. Physically abused by my mother. And then as if I wasnt punished enough, the man I married physically,mentally,emotionally and sexually abused me… I have been divorced for 5 years, and I am trying to mantain a “normal” relationship with a man who is trying to help me work through all of my baggage. He does his best to calm me down when I have a panic attack, or in my fight or flight moments. Intill him I never let anyone know what had happened to me. Then I tried to tell my dad and he called me a liar and said his son would never do that. Him and my mother split when I was 10. My step mom took me aside and told me she believes me and would make sure to keep my brother away when I visit as best she can. I have 2 daughters and I worry every day something similar will happen to them. I would not wish this kind of life long turmoil on anyone. I hope all of us can find a little peace…

November 16, 2012 at 4:50 am
(21) lindiwe says:

u remember axactly what has happened,sometimes i feel like i have healed but it is alsways having a way of coming back to me,i was sexually abused by my two uncles,my two causins who ganged reped me and even today i still feel like they can just come and explain to me why the have done to me and everytime i think about it i get angry i hate them with all my might,it makes me even more sad now that i know what sex is,
in my first relationship i hated sex,i didnt want to be tourched and i didnt have a problem with my boyfriend having affairs because i was able to give him what he wanted and at the same time i wasnt able to share with him my childhood experience

March 26, 2013 at 1:33 am
(22) A Young Man Who was sexual abused says:

I was sexual abused by my best friend’s uncle going up. I’m a young man in my 20s. We did not know what was happening. He would give us pot, alcohol and cigarettes. He told us he was helping us. Unknowingly I have avoided relationships. I have had a few girlfriends, but they always went after me like crazy. It did not become an issue until I developed feelings for a friend. I will never know whether they shared those feelings. I just flipped out. I now know why I acted the way I did and I have final started to deal with my issues. It sucks that my past has made me not trust anyone and act the way I did. I feel ashamed of how I acted. I hope one day I will feel comfortable being in a relationship. However I think it is important to know that because of what happened all of those years ago the idea of receiving oral sex even though the act comes from the right place makes me feel like someone has tied me up to a bed and is going to try and remove my manhood.

April 15, 2013 at 8:41 am
(23) lee says:

I was sexually abused by my step father from the age of 2 until almost 6. I told my mum what had happened. he denied it and she told me i was lying. i lived there in fear until i was 18. I am now 32 and still get flashbacks, have attempted suicide many times and have relied heavily on alcohol. doing cbt worsened things so i am now doing councilling for ptsd. ive been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. anyway, to Neal… unless youve been through this… do not comment!

May 5, 2013 at 7:05 pm
(24) Lec says:

I was sexually abused from when I was a little girl. I do not even remember who some o these people were exactly, but I hate myself, hate my life! I am destroyed. I guess I have to accept that. I get so many false starts where I believe I have overcome the demons only to get thrown again into this horrible pit. People do not get it. I hate my mum. I only just admitted that to myself a few minutes before I read this.

November 14, 2013 at 2:19 pm
(25) zohaib says:

It was when I was 11 years old and studying 6th class, when I had to go with my aunt in a marriage ceremony. we had to stay a night there. I never knew that night would become a nightmare for rest of my life. I was abused by one of my brother”s friend who was 5 years elder to me, when I was sleeping. Things did not stop here, after that he disclosed the event to mine class mate and friends. I was thinking I should better suicide than facing the shameful comments from friends. several days after that the same thing happened that I was afraid of. my friends share this incident with many school boys in order to tease me. From then I have been caught by severe depression, now I am a 25 years old person studying civil engineering. though I am at a very little risk of being blackmailed again but a fear does remain in my mind when I remember that unfortunate event. this creates a feeling of worthlessness, social phobia, depression, behavior disorder,loneliness. I have very little number of friends at my university. I am always afraid to talk to everyone. Now I am about to be a professional engineer but I don’t know how will react there to colleagues.

January 10, 2014 at 10:00 pm
(26) Joe anne says:

When I was a male child of eight, a distant cousin who babysat me decided to start abusing me. He had also been abused as a child. The abuse was unusual as the cousin was trying, right from the beginning, for me to be a willing partner. He was “kind” and “gentle”, he tried to make the experience as painless and plesureable has he could. By age nine I had experienced my first orgasm during this abuse and by age ten I was a “willing ” victim. After my twelveth birthday the abuse stopped as I no longer needed a babysitter. At twenty three I went to confront the cousin. I didn’t know what I was going to say or do but I had to do it. In the end, after telling him about the abuse from my point of view, I forgave him, the trauma of being forgiven for his actions finally ended his life six months later. I am now living a happy life having under gone a full gender reassignment. The abuse left me unable to function in my body gender in any way, no sex, no kissing, no physical contact what so ever. My self loathing of my male body came to a head when, using my pharmacology and anatomical knowledge I castrated myself under local anesthetic. As a victim of abuse and as sufferer of gender dysforia I found little help available in the UK twenty years ago. Any study into the effects of abuse and/or the treatment of such abuse is always welcome. To anyone reading this who has been abused, remember you have the right to fight to get the treatment you need to live your life with the happiness we all deserve, Good Luck. Joanne.

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