Psychological Trauma and the Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse with Respect to their Mental Health

Psychological Trauma and the Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse concerning their Mental Health

 Trauma occurs when a child experiences an intense event that threatens or causes harm to his or her emotional and physical well-being. Trauma can be the result of exposure to a natural disaster such as a hurricane or flood or to events such as war and terrorism and the worst part ‘sexual abuse’. When a person experiences something traumatic, adrenalin and other neurochemicals rush to the brain and print a picture there. The traumatic memory loops in the emotional side of the brain, disconnecting from the part of the brain that conducts reasoning and cognitive processing. 

What is psychological trauma? 

Psychological, or emotional trauma, is damage or injury to the psyche after living through an extremely frightening or distressing event and may result in challenges in functioning or coping normally after the event. Children who have experienced psychological trauma often have difficulty identifying, expressing, and managing emotions, and may have limited language for feeling states. They often internalize and/or externalize stress reactions and as a result may experience significant depression, anxiety, or anger. Initial reactions to psychological trauma can include exhaustion, confusion, sadness, anxiety, agitation, numbness, dissociation, confusion, physical arousal, and blunted affect. Most responses are normal in that they affect most survivors and are socially acceptable, psychologically effective, and self-limited. How emotional trauma affects the brain might lead to chronic stress, heightened fear, and increased irritation. This might also make it harder for those suffering to calm down or even sleep.

 What is Sexual Abuse?

 It is sexual contact or behaviour that occurs without the explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include Attempted rape. Fondling or unwanted sexual touching. Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body. 

Child Sexual Abuse

 Child sexual abuse also called child molestation, is a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent uses a child for stimulation. Forms of child sexual abuse include engaging in sexual activities with a child (whether by asking or pressuring, or by other means), indecent exposure (of the genitals, female nipples, etc.), child grooming, and child sexual exploitation. Child sexual abuse can occur in a variety of settings, including home, school, or work (in places where child labour is common). Child marriage is one of the main forms of child sexual abuse. Child marriage represents perhaps the most prevalent form of sexual abuse and exploitation of girls. The effects of child sexual abuse can include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, complex post-traumatic stress disorder, the propensity to further victimization in adulthood, and physical injury to the child, among other problems.

 Psychological Effect of Childhood Sexual Abuse 

Child sexual abuse can result in both short-term and long-term harm, including psychopathology in later life. Indicators and effects include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, poor self-esteem, somatization, sleep disturbances, and dissociative and anxiety disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder. While children may exhibit regressive behaviors such as thumb sucking or bedwetting, the strongest indicator of sexual abuse is sexual acting out and inappropriate sexual knowledge and interest. Victims may withdraw from school and social activities and exhibit various learning and behavioural problems, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). Teenage pregnancy and risky sexual behaviours may appear in adolescence. A causal relationship has been found between childhood sexual abuse and various adult psychopathologies, including crime and suicide, in addition to alcoholism and drug abuse. Males who were sexually abused as children more frequently appear in the criminal justice system than in a clinical mental health setting. Middle-aged women who were abused as children with nonabused counterparts found significantly higher health care costs for the former. Intergenerational effects have been noted, with the children of victims of child sexual abuse exhibiting more conduct problems, peer problems, and emotional problems than their peers. 


Children who received supportive responses following disclosure of sexual abuse had less traumatic symptoms and were abused for a shorter period than children who did not receive support. In general, children need support and stress-reducing resources after disclosure of sexual abuse. Negative social reactions to disclosure are harmful to the survivor’s well-being. Children who received a bad reaction from the first person they told, especially if the person was a close family member, had worse scores as adults on general trauma symptoms, post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, and dissociation. Non-validating and otherwise non-supportive responses to disclosure by the child’s primary attachment figure may indicate a relational disturbance predating the sexual abuse that may have been a risk factor for the abuse, and which can remain a risk factor for its psychological consequences.

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