Recovering from Child Abuse When You Are an Adult

LGBT+ people experience higher rates of childhood abuse than heterosexuals. In particular, they face an increased risk of childhood maltreatment (including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse). Research also indicates that LGBT+ people have an elevated risk from mental health disorders, and LGBT+ people of color in particular, may experience a higher likelihood of suicidality and depressive disorders. As found in a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Latina/o and Asian participants faced the highest levels of physical abuse, while Latina/o and African American experienced the highest levels of sexual abuse. If your childhood has been marked by abuse and you are now an adult, it is not too late to seek help. 

The Long-Term Effects of Child Abuse

Childhoood sexual abuse affects your healthand well-being long after it has ceased, as do other types of abuse. This is the case for men as well as women. For instance, men who were abused as children can have hyper-sexualized behaviors, substance abuse issues, and self-esteem and isolation problems. Children who are abused also have an elevated risk of having mental illnesses such as depression. These issues have other, indirect effects. For instance, men who abuse substancesmay have lower testosterone productionand both men and women who have experienced this type of trauma may be more prone to unhealthy lifestyle choices that lead to obesity and cardiovascular disease.

Men who were abused as children can have hyper-sexualized behaviors, substance abuse issues, and self-esteem and isolation problems

Battling Myths and Misconceptions

There are many myths surrounding child abuse that need to be dispelled. For instance, it is not true that a person who has been abused will necessarily abuse their own child. Nor is it true that an adult who experienced abuse as a child cannot lead a full and happy life. It is vital, however, to address trauma and there are many approaches that may work for you.

Treatments for Overcoming Abuse

If you have experienced child abuse, seeing a professional psychotherapist is important, as it will ensure you are not suppressing or trying to stifle traumatic memories to your detriment. Possible approaches vary and can include cognitive processing trauma therapy (CPT, which typically lasts 12 sessions and which has a good record with people with PTSD); eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR, which involves recalling specific memories while following the movements of your therapist with your eyes); and narrative exposure therapy (NET, which involves looking at one’s life chronologically and putting trauma into a context). Another treatment that may be of interest is prolonged exposure therapy (PET). This involves exposing a person to traumatic memories so they can understand and rationalize these moments.

Everyone reacts to trauma differently. However, as much as you may wish to put trauma in the past, it sometimes has long-term effects on your physical, mental, and emotional health. It is important to seek help so you can live your best life. There are various treatments available, some of which last for just a few sessions. Being open to trying one or more of these treatments can help get you on the road to lifelong recovery.