Sexual Trauma Can Cause Serious Mental Health Problems

Our treatment centers for women see a lot of chemical dependency that co-occurs with mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorders. Sexual trauma is often a precursor to more extreme mental health disorders as well. Women who have been the victims of sexual trauma often spend the rest of their lives dealing with the aftermath. Sexual trauma such as rape, can trigger depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and substance abuse.

According to a new study published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin, sexual trauma can also result in serious mental health issues. Researchers at the University of Ulster in Ireland discovered that traumatic sexual events can trigger the development of psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, in the years after the event.

An interesting finding of the study was that women who moved away from the area where the traumatic event took place, uprooting their social support networks, have an even higher chance of developing a mental illness, according to the researchers.

“Our most recent study identified an association between rape and subsequent diagnosis of a psychotic disorder over a 10-year period,” said Professor Mark Shevlin of the University of Ulster’s School of Psychology.

Statistics about Sexual Trauma

If you have been a victim of sexual trauma, at any age, know that you are not alone. Sexual traumas are perpetrated against women at an alarmingly high rate. In fact, one in six women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, according to the Violence Against Women Survey.

The survey also found out the following facts about women and sexual trauma:

  • About 18 percent of women in the United States have survived a completed or attempted rape.
  • Of these, 21.6 percent were younger than age 12 when they were first raped and 32.4 percent were between the ages of 12 and 17.
  • 64 percent of women who reported being raped, physically assaulted and/or stalked since age 18 were victimized by a current or former husband, cohabiting partner, boyfriend or date.
  • More than 300,000 intimate partner rapes occur each year against women 18 and older.
  • Studies have shown that most victims of sexual assault know their attackers, which is probably why fewer than half of women report the incident to the police.

Effects of Sexual Trauma

Dealing with the aftermath of rape or a sexual assault may be one of the most difficult things you’ve ever had to do. In addition to dealing with the physical consequences, victims of sexual trauma may also experience the following:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Nervousness
  • An addiction to drugs or alcohol in order to cope
  • Phobias
  • Insomnia
  • Aggression
  • Alienation
  • Sexual dysfunction

If you have been the victim of a sexual assault, it may be difficult to find peace of mind on your own. Finding a way to get treatment and work through your trauma may mean getting professional help, either through a therapist trained in trauma or at a residential treatment center for women suffering from trauma. A trauma professional can help you to address the traumatic event, any issues associated with that event and learn productive ways to cope and move on so that you no longer feel like a victim.

Click here to read more about trauma.