What are the effects of childhood sexual abuse?
Some people don’t know if they have been abused. Others know that it happened, but don’t know how it affects their everyday life. In the test below you will see all kinds of symptoms that may be caused by childhood sexual abuse. Of course, having these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have been abused. It can point in that direction though.
Recognition and awareness
A similar list was a rude awakening for me when I first read it. Sure, there were a few things on there that I had already connected to the abuse myself. Some others were pretty obvious, like nightmares and having problems with authority figures. However, childhood sexual abuse had left far more scars in my life than I had previously realized.
Take good care of yourself when you go through these lists. It could be confronting or triggering just to read. If you need someone to talk to about these issues, drop me a line. I can either offer you online coaching or help you look for someone who is specialized in childhood sexual abuse.
Check whether the conditions and symptoms in the list apply to you. The more of these complaints you have and the more often they bother you, the more likely it is that you have been sexually abused as a child.
- Fear of being alone
- Afraid of the dark
- Fear of rejection/abandonement
- Afraid of intimacy/sexuality/feeling sexual
- Unexplained fear for certain places (a park, closet, bedroom)
- Fear of gyneacological (pelvic) exam
- Unexplained and unreasonable fear about your own children (in particular when they reach the age you had when the abuse started)
- Irrational fear for certain people
- Prone to nausea/reflux
- Being unaware of physical signals (like pain or being tired, hungry or full)
- Wearing baggy clothes or many layers of clothing in order to hide your body
- Gaining weight as a means of protection
- Feeling hatred for your own body, in particular your genitals
- Feeling numb in your genitals
- Tension, head-aches, back-aches
- Spastic bowel and other colon complaints
- A large number of conditions of the reproductive organs (heavy cramps, endometriosis, an increased risk of tumors, cancer and infertility)
- Eating disorders
- Body Dysmorphic Disorder
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and/or addicitve behavior (food, work, sex, drinking, smoking, etc)
- Self sabotage, feelings of self hatred, self abuse, automutilation, suicidal ideation and attempted suicides
- Emotional flatlining, depression
- Fear and panic attacks
- Feeling an extreme need to control yourself, others and situations.
- Perfectionism in all aspects of your life.
- Overwhelming feelings of guilt, feeling like you are always wrong, in particular in relationships.
- Guilt and shame. (recurring thoughts like: ‘There is something wrong with me’ ‘I deserved it’ ‘I’m dirty and damaged forever’ or ‘All I’m good for is sex’)
- Being desoriented and vague a lot of the time.
- Not being able to handle emotions
- Dispersonalisation (the feeling that you’re not yourself, experiencing more than one personality)
- Finding it difficult to trust your own thoughts and feelings
- Not feeling or taking responsibility for your own life, victim behavior patterns.
- Difficulty expressing or feeling anger (the fear that if you show your anger, you will lose control, being angry all the time or being disproportionately angry, easy to flare)
Problems being in relationships
- Feeling like you’re worthless, that you don’t deserve your partner.
- Having difficulty accepting love and care from anyone.
- Feeling like the other person is always right.
- Excessively caring for others at the expense of yourself
- Patterns of revictimisation
- Finding it difficult to commit to others
- Maltreating your children without knowing why
- Finding it difficult to connect emotionally to your own children or the opposite smothering them.
- Unexplained difficulty in the care of your children.
- Feeling worthless, angry of depressed in your family of origin.
- Feeling like you have to protect your family by keeping the truth from them.
- Testing people who say they love you (by doing nasty things to them)
- Excessive pleasing behavior in order to get approval
- Problems with boundaries, not being able to say no, or to respect other people’s no.
- Not believing that you have a right to your own feelings.
- Repressed sexuality, avoiding sex, feeling like sex is dirty or slutty.
- Feeling shame about sexual excitement
- Obsessive, compulsive sex
- Behaving promiscuously, not being able to say no, believing that you’re a sexual object and feeling that your primary value is in your sexuality.
- Vaginism or pain during intercourse
- Giving sex to feel love, giving love to get sex. Confusion about the difference between the desire for intimacy and the desire for sex.
- Being unable to enjoy sex (or parts of it).
- Having flashbacks during sex (sometimes mistaking the partner for the abuser).
- Being mentally or emotionally absent during sex.
- Intrusive fantasies about abuse, rape or BDSM images during sex or the inability to achieve orgasm without these images.
- Confusion about your sexual identity
- Sexual deviance (porn-addiction, exhibitionism, making obscene phone calls, etc)
- Victims turning into perpetrators
- Missing pieces of memory in early childhood
- Flashbacks: feelings, sounds, scents, dreams, etc, about things without always knowing what it’s about.
- Nightmares with scenes from the abuse or being hunted
- Having an unrealistic, ideal image of your own childhood or your parents
- Denying what happened or downplaying the intensity of it.
- Minimalizing or excusing the abuse, ‘It wasn’t so bad’ ‘others had it worse’ or ‘they didn’t mean any harm’.
- Triggers: something happens that unconsciously reminds you of the abuse and you’re suddenly afraid or suddenly remember a scene.
- Being angry at God, the Universe or whatever you believe in
- Problems trusting church
- Not being able to feel loved and accepted
- Feeling a spiritual emptiness
- Blaming God for the shape you’re in.
- Not being able to give or receive forgiveness
- Feeling unworthy
- Searching for safety and peace ‘at any cost’.
- Feeling hopeless about life and yourself
- Problems with trust: difficulty trusting anyone
- Avoiding intimicy because you feel that if people really got to know you, they would reject you.
- Being too trusting.
Do you have many of these symptoms? Recognize yourself in these sentences? It could point to having been sexually abused, but it’s no guarantee. However, if you do suffer from many of these symptoms, please seek help. Life is too beautiful to stay stuck in problems like these.
You can work with childhood sexual abuse in many ways. My book is a good starting point to seek healing. It shows you what the long term effects of childhood sexual abuse are and how you can deal with them. It also outlines different therapies and how those really work, so you can make your own choice based on solid information.
In addition I’m available for online coaching. If you like, check out the information on that on my ‘coaching’ page.