Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuses
Many children do not talk about what happens to them at home until they
are adults. There are varying reasons for this, usually threats of harm by
the abuser to either the child or a family member. When the problem is
physical abuse the child either does not know it is not normal, or knows
that if they talk there will be more/worse abuse. If it is sexual abuse the
child may not even know it is wrong until it has been going on for several
years, at other times the child has been threatened with harm, made to
believe they wanted the sexual touching, or a close family member has
been threatened with either harm or death. Emotional abuse is seldom
recognized by the victim during childhood, it usually takes a third party to
see it happening in a child's life, or to look back on an adult's history and
see childhood emotional abuse. Trauma can happen during childhood
abuse, but just as frequently trauma develops when the child grows up
enough to find out that what happened several years before was wrong.
This page is for Adult Women who are wondering why they are "so
different", why they are "so messed up" emotionally. Men will probably get
some understanding from these pages, but the information contained here
is specifically for women.
Physical Reactions: difficulty breathing, rapid breathing, heart pounding, racing thoughts,
tense muscles, and cold sweats. These symptoms can be part of "panic attacks" or "anxiety
attacks." They are commonly seen during a "fight or flight" response to a traumatic situation,
or during a flashback to a traumatic event.
Psychological reactions: dissociation (where the mind seems to leave the body), "loosing
time," numbing, denial, anger, or a debilitating fear of being in the situation again.
What is Trauma? Trauma is abnormal situations in a person's life that
lead to a series of normal responses, that do not feel normal. Emotional,
Physical, and Sexual abuse are abnormal situations that can occur in a
person's life. There are also events that occur in nature that can be
traumatic - earthquakes, tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes,
tornadoes, forest/grass fires, etc. There are man made events such as
vehicle accidents, train/airplane crashes, bombings/explosions, war,
torture, and the above mentioned abuses that can be traumatic. Women,
more than men, are at greater risk for emotional, physical, and sexual
abuse. Following are some responses women often have.
Symptoms that can show up immediately following a traumatic event: problems
falling or staying asleep, nightmares, severe emotional responses or jumpiness to sudden
noises or movements; hyperactivity, restlessness, extreme vigilance or alertness to danger,
sudden or abrupt mood swings (similar to PMS), feeling as if you are going crazy,
flashbacks, sensitivity to sound, light, smell, taste, touch, fear of losing control, desire to use
alcohol or drugs to "calm down" or "numb" your emotions.
Symptoms that may develop later: panic attacks, anxiety, phobias; mental blankness or
being "spacey;" avoidance behaviors, an attraction to dangerous situations - taking risks;
frequent anger or crying; extreme increase or decrease in sexual activity; forgetfulness;
problems nurturing, loving, or bonding with other individuals; fear of dying or a shortened
life; self-harming behaviors (cutting, burning, picking); cravings (chemicals: drugs/alcohol,
foods, behaviors: gambling, sexual promiscuity,etc).
Symptoms that may take even longer to develop: low energy or fatigue; physical
health problems (depleted immune system, neck and back problems, asthma, digestive
distress, severe PMS symptoms, hormone imbalances); eating disorders, reduced or
diminished emotional responses; commitment issues; depression, feeling detached or
isolated or the desire to be so; diminished ability for decision making, planning, and carrying
out decisions or plans.
Note: Sometimes the above mentioned physical symptoms cannot be explained through
medical examinations and causes, so don't be offended if your medical doctor sends you to
a therapist for help - there is usually a good reason for it, especially since a majority of
common medical problems are made worse by emotional stress/distress.