Gina, 22, a cheerful and dedicated worker, had recently joined her first job. But three months later, she started distancing herself from every one and became dull and impassive. As days passed by, Gina’s physical appearance also changed and she became frail. Then one day, she did not show up at work and later that day, her colleagues got to know that she had been stabbed by her former lover.
Unfortunately, Gina’s case is an not an isolated one. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), one American suffers sexual assault every 98 seconds. Moreover, one out of every six American women has been a victim of attempted or completed rape and one in 33 men has suffered attempted or completed rape.
Sexual abuse manifests as mental disorders
Sexual abuse not only causes physical injury, it has deep-seated roots in one’s psychological health as well. Listed below are some of the mental health manifestations of sexual harassment:
Depression – The loss of autonomy on one’s body to sexual assault can lead to feelings of shock, distress and dejectedness. One might feel an extreme loss of self-worth and this can translate into depression, which could be fleeting or chronic.
Anxiety – A sexual assault survivor may struggle with intense anxiety after his or her body has been violated. They might struggle with anxiety fearing that the attack might happen again. Some survivors may develop agoraphobia and may fear leaving their homes. The sufferer might also struggle with panic attacks and other symptoms of anxiety like slurred speech and emotional numbness.
Post-traumatic stress disorder – The trauma of a sexual assault may lead to increased chances of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), characterized by bouts of depression, anxiety and panic attacks. There might be intense flashbacks and a person might lose track of his or her surroundings. Some might also suffer from complex-PTSD and fear abandonment.
Personality disruptions – Sexual abuse might result in personality disruptions. The behavioral patterns associated with the personality disorder could be an adaptation to the abuse.
Attachment disruptions – An adult who has been abused during childhood might find it increasingly difficult to form close bonds, struggle with intimacy issues, or on the other hand, might be eager to form close associations too soon.
Triggers – Triggers are the stimuli that bring back the memories of an abuse. It could be subsequent abuse, violence, seeing the abuser again, discussions around that abuse, etc. Triggers lead to flashbacks which result in anxiety.
Consequences of sexual violence
Sexual violence can cause lifelong traumatic effects on the victim, their families, and the community. The long-lasting consequences of sexual violence can be sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), chronic pain, gynecological disorders, migraines, genital injuries, cervical cancer, etc. The psychological ramifications of sexual assault can be disgrace, guilt, shock, renunciation, fear and debilitating mental disorders. Chronic psychological disturbances might manifest as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies.
A sexually victimized individual might also become a recluse, avoid being into relationships or physical intimacy, and face stigmatization and discrimination from family and friends. Moreover, the victim might be predisposed to risky behaviors such as experimenting with alcohol and substance abuse, getting into unhealthy sexual practices, and having criminal tendencies.
Vicious cycle of mental disorders and substance abuse
Unfolding the trauma of sexual assault can be challenging. These experiences push the human mind to its limits, sometimes continuing to burden the victim with a lingering mental suffering until substance abuse feels like the only release, which might lead to the malicious circle of addiction and mental disorders. Yet there is a better way. Not by escaping, but living. Live – because that is the only way to truly enjoy life. For sexual assault victims, living without fear is a painful but brave choice.
If you or someone you know has been struggling with dual diagnosis, that is, the co-occurrence of a mental disorder and substance abuse, contact the Dual Diagnosis Helpline to find the top dual diagnosis treatment centers in the U.S. Call our 24/7 helpline number (855)-981-6047 or chat online with our trained representatives to know more about dual diagnosis treatment.