Dissociation “Uniquely Associated” With Child Sexual Abuse

Experts agree that, not only is dissociation “uniquely associated” with sexual abuse, but it also causes the victim to have a greater chance of psychiatric problems later in life.

Drs. Cassandra L. Kisiel and John S. Lyons say the person who suffers with dissociation, has hindered functioning and they may suffer “serious psychopathology.”

Kisiel and Lyons also found that sexual abuse and dissociation were autonomous with self-mutilation and other psychiatric disturbances, as well as disturbed functioning.

Dissociation symptoms can include:

Feeling detached from life or people

Out of body experiences

Sleep disorders





Loss of time

Suicidal thoughts

Mood swings



           Re-creating Trauma

Adult survivors of child sexual abuse often subconsciously attempt to re-enact their sexual trauma from childhood, and until they receive therapeutic help, they will most likely act out subconsciously by becoming an abuser or maintaining a victim-like nature.

Women who were victims of child sexual abuse are twice as likely to experience rape or other form of sexual assault as an adult. Female survivors might also find themselves in a relationship with a man who abuses them physically, or who physically or sexually abuses their children. Sometimes a survivor will re-create the unresolved trauma by forming friendships with people who abuse them or by taking a job with an abusive employer.

Although most men who were sexually abused as children do not become child molesters, they are more likely than women to re-create their childhood by becoming abusers themselves (instead of being a victim), or more likely to verbally, physically, and emotionally abuse others.

Women are more likely to take a victim role but many women sexually, physically, and verbally assault children

Higher Suicide Rates and Addiction

As much as forty-three percent of adults who were abused as children are more likely to attempt suicide. Female sexual abuse victims are highly likely to turn to alcohol and drugs. Substance abuse has been linked beyond dispute to child sexual abuse. After becoming sober, a number of people have remembered that they were sexually abused in childhood.


Around eighteen to twenty million Americans suffer from depression. Medical doctors attribute depression to chemical imbalances and prescibe pharmecuticals in record numbers, yet they wonder why researchers can’t find a cure for depression and other mental health issues. The field of medicine continues to search for physiological, or superficial reasons for depression, but depression is often anger turned inward on the person themselves.

Women are three times more likely to come down with depression than men. This may be because men are more likely to express their anger outwardly or onto others, while women usually hold anger inside.

Another contributing factor is that more women than men have been victims of child sexual abuse. The vast majority of people who have been sexually abused will experience a certain severity of depression during a period of their lives.



Dissociation May Worsen Effects of Sexual Abuse Reuters Health, New York, Source: American Journal of Psychiatry 2001;158:1034-1039, Tuesday July 17 1:37 PM ET

Sexual Abuse in Girls Leads to Later Substance Abuse, Suzanne Rustler, New York,(Reuters Health), Thursday October 12 5:32 PM ET, source: Archives of General Psychiatry 2000;57:953-959. Other source: Sexual Abuse in Girls Leads to Later Substance Abuse, Suzanne Rostler, October 12 5:32 PM ET, New York, Reuters Health

This entry was posted in Child Abuse, child molestation, child sexual abuse, rape and abuse, repressed memory and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Dissociation “Uniquely Associated” With Child Sexual Abuse

  1. Orla says:

    I am currently doing a dissertation the relationship between dissaciation and survivors of child female sexual abuse perpretrated by women in families, Therpists and survivors percetions,,is diassociation curative, coping, as therapist do we know enough what do we think of the DSM criteria, all reply be great any emails for either survivors or therapists must include written permission to use however a formal letter of indroction will be supplied and all relpies anoymous

    • Orla says:

      Sorry the automatic spellcheck took over! The relationship between dissociative identity disorder and survivors of female child sexual abuse perpretrated by women, survivors/therapists viewpoints and all comments welcome anu use with permission and names, writing from Ireland

  2. PM Stefan says:

    If I had not dissociated and repressed the memories of my horrific abuse, I would have gone insane. I know that for a fact because during the abuse I suffered psychotic breaks at times when whatever was occurring was too much to bear even with the dissociation, out of body experiences, and repression of the abuse.

    I have been in therapy on and off since I was 26 years of age [33 years ago]. A wonderful teacher at the nursing school I attended at the time suggested I see this great counselor. I saw the counselor for one and half years and was forced to move on because I graduated from school.

    From the age of 6, I started to “play back,” as I called it, my abuse within my head and body. Therapists also refer to this as playacting and it is something young children do who have been traumatized. Initially, I believed there was something mentally wrong with me for doing this playacting. It intensified after age 10 and yet I did not know why until over 48 years later when I recalled the execrable repressed memories from age 9 and 10. Today, I use this playacting as a tool for writing stories about my abuse. Those stories have helped me recover memories and recover from the abuse.

    I also recreated my trauma by marrying someone who is a pedophile [like my father] and a psychological and verbal abuser [like my mother, step-dad, older brother, younger brother, and my father].

    I received the most benefit from therapy at age 39 when I found a wonderful therapist who had experience with sexual abuse and dissociative disorders. I saw him for the next 14 years before needing to move onto finding a female therapist.

    Working on my abuse in therapy has been like peeling layers of an onion off and facing the horrible pain of each of those memories.

    And I believe the most difficult part of therapy was knowing all these horrible memories yet not being able to put the pieces together and understand what they meant. It would be 22 years from the time I started therapy the second time in 1988/9 before I could grasp the full meaning of what I was remembering.

    The worst part of my abuse was being surrounded by personality disordered parents who failed to stop what was happening. My mother had two personality disorders, my step-dad one, my oldest brother one, my youngest brother one, and my father at least two, possibly more. My mother literally sold me to my father for a lump sum of money so he could have the rights to abuse me as he desired. I remember when that particular memory came flooding back to me. It was horrible realizing my mother did not give a crap about me.

    I asked my two favorite therapists why my therapy seemed to take forever. I was told it is because of my dissociation, the repression, the PTSD, and my severely personality disordered caregivers.

    • Alethea says:

      Hi PM.

      I also find it incredibly difficult sometimes to have these horrible memories yet not being able to put the pieces together. Mine are fragmented (which is normal for traumatic memory) and so few. I completely blocked out ages 1-12 and blocked out much of ages 12-15 but I do have more memories after age 12. Most of that is of things that happened outside my home. I have NO happy memories, except of a couple of things that took place outside my childhood home. How sad and disturbing it is to not have any happy childhood memories. Maybe my childhood was even more fucked up than I remember.

      I too felt horrible emotional pain from my mother not giving a crap about me. That is a very very painful thing for a child.

  3. victim says:

    i cannot have children due to child sexual abuse. i have always been a high achiever, parents brought me up to set goals and become something big in life. I absorbed myself into my studies and always achieved high standards in everything that i did. however i suffered eating disorders, anxiety, and sleeping problems all throughout the stressful times of my studies. It wasn’t until a devastating incident at age 20 that I then became extremely depressed, lost myself and my identity, the eating disorder got way out of control, excessive exercise, self harm (I would cut my wrist and dig holes all over my pubic bone and bikini line region), i was suicidal, I was very addictive in nature like cleaning, exercise, studying, problem solving, routine, binge drinking. It was when the depression and trauam later in life at age 20 that i began to confront my childhood memories of the sexual abuse, when i say confront I mean it confronted me without my control, it was like post traumatic stress disorder, i was dreaming and walking up with hallucinations of the exerciences and memories. At the same time i met a man who looked very much like the abuser and attracted him to me and we started dating and we got married. From that point on I maintained being a victim, the man i was married to was a controlling person and binge drinker, sociopathic type of personality problem, we would only have sex when he was drunk and i relived all my sexual abuse through letting my exhusband abuse me sexually. after reliving the memories i became so extremely depressed, suicidal, that is when the self harm stuff started, i became addicted to benzo’s when psyches prescribed this to me for anxiety and insomnia, i overdosed a number of times. it got to a point in my relationship with my exhusband that I just returned to dissociation every time we had sex, he thought i wasn’t attracted to him anymore and i told him i wouldn’t ever again have sex with him when he was drunk as he became violent at times and hurt me. Thereafter iv never recovered from dissociation, i cannot enjoy sex, i don’t know how I can have a sexual relationship with another man. i feel helpless and hopeless, like no man would want me. obviously i left my exhusband, i felt like that was part of my answer to ever being happy and recovering from all the trauma and depression. At the time i have pulled away from still being the “victim” and im lost, i don’t know who i am. Iv noticed that I lose track of though all the time, i forget what day and time it is, i day dream again like I used to as a kid, im more drawn to drugs and alcohol now to cope with loneliness. im scared no man will want me if i can’t give them a child and im stuck with all these mental health issues. i guess my biggest fear is whether i can ever enjoy sex again, stop the dissociation. Im on antidepressants, trialled antipsychotics at night time but have bad side effects, benzo;s worked well but I got addicted and struggled with ODs. i want to learn to let someone love me and me love them back without being a the victim and without dissociating, i want to be normal. how can i do this. pls help me.

    • Alethea says:

      I cry when I read these kind of comments. There is SO MUCH pain out there. I feel so sad that I cannot help 99.9% of people suffering with these kind of common issues. It is frustrating for me because I KNOW there is a way to heal and I am living it right now. I am not done with therapy yet, but what my therapist does for me is like a miracle. If I had not had this kind of therapy, I would be dead, on drugs, divorced, or in a mental hospital.

      First of all, don’t refer to yourself as “victim” because you are not a victim anymore. You survived.. and that in and of itself is a victory over your abuser/s.

      Please contact me for my therapist’s phone number if you want help. She CAN help you. All you need is a will to heal and a telephone. I have the therapy over the phone because she is in another state from me. But I actually prefer to have the therapy from the privacy of my own home. Her charge for the therapy is nothing compared to what other therapists charge, and what she does is like gold.

      sanjuanangel7@yahoo.com is my email. Contact me for more info.

      • Veronica says:

        Alethea, I will contact you for the number… Im in another country. It seems entirely impossible to get help here and I am tired of doing all these alone! I am using a technique called Memgram and it is fast, amazing to the point etc. But I feel the need to get some support for the traumatic experience that is recovery.

        • Alethea says:

          Veronica, I have sent you an email with my therapist’s email address. That way, you can set up a phone appt. with her since you are in another country.

    • PM Stefan says:

      To: No Longer A Victim
      There is this great place for survivors on the www called Pandora’s Project. It is a support and resources for survivors of rape and sexual abuse. I have participated on their forums for the past six years. It is not therapy though, rather an adjunct to therapy.


      It is one of the most supportive web sites I have ever been to on the www.

      In order to recover from the dissociation, you need to see a therapist and get to the memories which caused the dissociation.

      You have what it takes to be healthy; the desire to do it.

  4. little nel says:

    I don’t know why it never occurred to me to that I was volunteering to be a victim long after the abuse had ended.

    Depression was my constant companion like a black cloud that followed me where ever I went. I wanted it gone but everything I did to fix me failed so I became bitter, miserable, and filled with despair.

    I thought that I should to be able to overcome my problems on my own. It was a tragic mistake on my part because I under-estimated the power of childhood trauma and the anger it produced in me. The anger, and the denial of the anger, caused me to have a distorted perception of my life. I was too damaged and hurt to look at the truth of my childhood for a long time.

    It took the help of other people for me to see the reality of the trauma I experienced and it’s long term consequences. I will be forever grateful to them and other people who labor to expose child abuse and it’s effects on people.

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