Three Long-term Impacts of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Three Long-term Impacts of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Three Long-term Impacts of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse must clearly understand the long-term consequences of such abuse to seek the support they need. EMDR therapy in Orlando is available for individuals who have encountered sexual abuse and are at expanded risk for myriad psychological problems, some of which display in physical manners. In addition, childhood sexual abuse causes emotional trauma that can damage a person long into adulthood. The American Counseling Association (ACA) notes that children who have encountered sexual abuse are at advanced risk for the following:

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Sexual abuse survivors may act out by being mean or recoiling from others, internalizing the abuse, engaging in self-harm, or committing suicide. Suicidal ideations, depression, and anxiety are expected long-term consequences of childhood sexual abuse, driving them to connect with PTSD deeply. However, the ACA concentrates more on a subset of PTSD outcomes, known as dissociative behavior.

Dissociation is a child sexual abuse victim's most natural protection against extreme trauma. Unfortunately, survivors suffering from dissociative behavior frequently engage in depersonalization and derealization, sensing that the world and oneself are not authentic. When child sexual abuse targets suffer continued abuse, they often dissociate from themselves and the world near them to bypass connecting with the emotional and physical distress of the abuse they have tolerated.

Dissociation can include:

  • Sensations of confusion or disorientation.
  • Nightmares.
  • Flashbacks of the abuse.
  • Absence of emotion.

Dissociation is also what drives adult survivors to reject and suppress the abuse. This demonstrates why some abuse survivors don't remember their abuse until much later in life.

Eating Disorders

Purging, binging, and limiting food consumption reduces or numbs sensations of guilt and despair. This can occasionally encourage survivors to self-medicate with food. In other circumstances, abuse victims employ these behaviors to discipline the body that failed to defend them from the abuse. Starving oneself gives survivors authority over their bodies and replaces sentiments of powerlessness that derive from their abuse.

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) calculates that around 30 percent of individuals with eating disorders are survivors of sexual abuse, probably because the abuse drastically impacts body image. Although anorexia can impact those who have suffered sexual abuse, bulimia is more routine. Binging and purging may temporarily decrease thoughts and feelings connected to the trauma of sexual abuse, such as anxiety, rage, and shame. It is also a manner for victims to deal with a demand for predictability, personal freedom, and power.


Individuals who have encountered sexual abuse are at an expanded risk for suicide. Thoughts of suicide are often coupled with anxiety, despair, and low self-esteem. When adult survivors of sexual abuse frequently feel helpless and have low-self esteem. They may begin to withdraw, and resumed sentiments of worthlessness can lead to suicide. In addition, victims feel vulnerable because they did not prevent the manipulation and intimidation that permitted them to be violated.

These long-term consequences of childhood sexual abuse are only the beginning of the trauma's imprint on a survivor. We specialize in EMDR therapy in Orlando. If you or a loved one struggles with the consequences of childhood sexual abuse, contact us for help today.

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Heather Oller

Heather Oller is the owner and founder of Orlando Thrive Therapy, Coaching, and Counseling. She is a licensed counselor and a family mediator who has over 23 years of dedicated work as a professional in the mental health field. Through her company's mission, she continues to pave the way for future therapists, and their clients, who want a higher quality of life....and who want to thrive, rather than just survive. You can contact Orlando Thrive Therapy at (407) 592-8997 for more information.