Child Sexual Abuse and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

“They say time heals everything, but I’m still waiting.”

—Dixie Chicks

About thirteen million people suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is a mental and physical health problem that usually includes flashbacks, anxiety, nightmares, depression and other behavioral indicators. Psychosomatic symptoms (physical problems caused by the mind) are also a part of life for most people with PTSD.

Victims of child sexual abuse, rape, incest, and trauma –as well as war veterans, commonly suffer from PTSD.

PTSD is often self-treated with drugs or alcohol. People with PTSD have biological changes in addition to multiple psychological problems. Those who suffer with PTSD are greatly affected by depression, fears, and problems with cognition or memory. These difficulties can dramatically affect a person’s job, family, and social life. 1

People with PTSD will commonly experience visually invasive images –as opposed to actual thoughts about the trauma. The unwanted memories often contain stimuli that existed just before the trauma occurred. Researchers feel these intrusive images are more of a brain association to an event, when a second or a minute later, the person was in danger. In other words, the images may be of what happened immediately before the trauma.

When PTSD is triggered, the brain makes the person feel as if they need to take heed of impending danger. The mind retains a sort of warning signal. Research confirms that this is why a previous victim of trauma experiences a feeling of impending doom, or unknown threat, when these images appear, and even when no understandable danger is present.

Most people with PTSD are always on guard. They may feel a need to prepare for an intruder, even when other people in the vicinity feel perfectly safe. People who have repressed memories of abuse (whether or not they have remembered everything yet) commonly experience this need to prepare, or to fight, a phantom attacker.

A large number of those who have little or no memory of their childhood trauma receive body memories instead of disturbing images. These survivors will experience physical symptoms that have no explanation. The sensations often come when the survivor feels subconsciously threatened……. but the person often has no conscious idea they are even afraid. For example, they might suddenly have a rapid heart rate for no apparent reason, or abruptly feel an urgent need to clean, or to eat. Other behaviors might include things like obsessively locking doors.

PTSD symptoms can include:

Recurrent and intrusive recollections of a traumatic event

Lack of memory for important aspects of a distressing incident

Feeling estranged from others

Feeling of having a short life span

Outbursts of anger


Hiding from others, avoiding friends, or loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed



Exaggerated startle response


Numbness or diminished emotions

Dislike of being touched

Inability to trust

Control issues

Abrupt mood swings

Frequent or uncontrollable crying

Feeling crazy, or very different from others

Excessive shyness



Abnormal fear of death

Panic attacks


Swallowing or gagging sensitivity

Lack of sex drive

Low self-confidence

Unreasonable feelings of unworthiness or inferiority

Poor body image

Feeling sexually stimulated inappropriately or when there is no conscious reason for it.

Restless sleep

Frequent, excessive, unwarranted, washing (especially of the genitals or breasts)

Obsessed with a need to insure safety of self or loved ones

Abnormal fear or hatred of men

Abnormal fear or hatred of women

I am currently working on an article that will reveal how people can heal from PTSD, psychosomatic symptoms, and all the effects of child sexual abuse.


  1. National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  1. The Nature of Intrusive Memories After Trauma: The Warning SignalHypothesis, Ehlers A, Hackmann A, Steil R, Clohessy S, Wenninger K, Winter H Behav Res Ther 2002 Sep; 40(9):995-1002 , Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London
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12 Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

  1. Robert Ong says:

    Encouraging people to talk about childhood sexual abuse and indeed verbalising the gory details is not an easy task, but entirely necessary. People who have never been abused will actively deny the horrid possibilities, the evil that men and women are capable of, against innocent young minds.
    The denial system ingrained in human society is what makes childhood sexual abuse so easy to exploit.

    • Alethea says:

      “The denial system ingrained in human society is what makes childhood sexual abuse so easy to exploit.”

      Now that’s the truth! I would also add, easy to perpetuate.

  2. Robert Ong says:

    Hello Alethea, thank you for your article. Your writing above explains many things that 99% of psychiatrists are not able to grasp. A direct causal link between childhood trauma and adult psychosis cannot be proven, no physical abnormality exits. Therefore most mental health professionals view, and indeed label, patients with any of the above mentioned symptoms as having a ‘disorder’.
    The medical model cannot accept, young minds subjected to severe trauma will have consequences, these consequences may not make themselves known for years, sometimes decades.

    Alethea, I look forward to reading more of your informed articles.

    Kind regards, Robert

    • Alethea says:

      Dear Robert,

      Thank you for your comment.

      “The medical model cannot accept, young minds subjected to severe trauma will have consequences, these consequences may not make themselves known for years, sometimes decades.”

      I think this is what is happening with Elizabeth Smart, don’t you? I don’t care how much horseback riding, harp playing, or talks with your parents you have….it cannot wipe away hundreds of rapes, death threats, kidnapping, isolation, being tied to a tree, and emotional trauma.

      • little nel says:

        According to Marilyn Van Derbur the age at which the trauma begins to bother the female victim is age 40.

        Most victims feel OK at age 25 then the unexpected happens at age 40. The trauma and drama unfolds without our consent.

        I thought that I was OK until my world fell apart just like Marilyn described.

        I wonder how Elizabeth Smart will feel at age 40?

  3. little nel says:

    Hi Alethea,

    I am back from listening to Marilyn VanDerber. She is an amazing speaker. She told her story and my husband, who is easily distracted, was unable to become distracted as she spoke because it was so profound.

    He was not expecting such a moving testimony from a victim/survivor of incest. He said that he was glad that he decided to attend it with me.

    I did learn after the luncheon that Marilyn is taking a training course that is offered by the YMCA called Darkness to Light.
    The website is and the group is known as Stewards of Children.

    • Alethea says:

      Thank you so much Little Nel. I knew you would enjoy it. Thanks for the link, and I hope you had a wonderful vacation.

  4. mary says:

    with the concept of contrast. how the presence of darkness increases the intensity of light. or in music, how the most moving compositions contain the lows and the highs. im sure there are many people out there who will never experience what it feels like to go through trauma in their lives… i used to feel jealous of their happiness and seemingly immacculate relationships but now I know it’s possible for me to be on that same level too…. and those days when i remember the trauma, or the years and years of suffering…. this simple contentment i feel in my daily life turns into a rising joy.

    • Alethea says:

      Hi Mary. Thank you for sharing your experience.

      “i used to feel jealous of their happiness and seemingly immacculate relationships but now I know it’s possible for me to be on that same level too.”

      “Seemingly” is the key word here. One never knows what goes on behind closed doors, or what someone suffers inside themselves. When I was at my worst, I learned to pretend I was fine, and that life was great…all while I was suffering inside and wanting to die.

      I used to put on an act to get through the day, be sociable, and talk to other human beings during the day. I used to envy those who seemed to have a great life, and who seemed to not be suffering from any physical or psychological problems. But I learned that -in spite of the hell I went through- I am damn lucky and happy to be who I am. I don’t want someone else’s life.

      • little nel says:

        “But I learned that-in spite of the hell I went through-I am damn lucky and happy to be who I am.”

        How true and profound.

        How grateful I am that I have learned to embrace recovery and get back all that was taken from me without my consent and against the will of God.

  5. mary says:

    i had every single one of those symptoms in extreme intensities throughout my childhood up until my early adulthood (now). i think even though at times i feel strong ill always have them come every once in a while at least. now that i recognize the root cause I see these emotions and sensations for what they are… simply emotions and sensations. Through giving them names i have found a way to disempower the role they have in my life and as a result i find myself experiencing that darkness come over me yet again but when it does, it leaves almost as quickly as it come.s And i feel lighter and just so much more happy, and not a superficial cheerfulness that has to deny the existence of a negative truth to be positive but this depth of joy that is just as penetrating as the pain, and that is so, so real. to finally know what it feels to live without being crippled byfear after being in it for all your life is just amazing for me, whereas for others maybe its only a mundane state of mine. I’m sure youre familiar

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