Mental Health Impact of Child Sexual Abuse in Later Life

by Payton Buffington / Uncategorised / 17 Mar 2017

Child Sexual Abuse Impacts later in Life

Mental Health Impact of Child Sexual Abuse in Later Life


Child abuse violates the trust at the core of a child's relationship with the world (Walker, 1994). There is no denying the connection between child sexual abuse and adverse mental health of adults.


This article looks at some of the long-term trends which typify many adults who were mistreated as children.

Alcohol Problems

Extensive research has analysed the relationship between childhood physical and sexual abuse and the development of adult alcohol problems.


Adults, who in childhood were sexually abused, often turn to alcohol as an escape from the reality of the pain and guilt associated with the abuse and their lives can often spiral downward from there.


The relationship between alcohol abuse and child sexual abuse remains somewhat complex.


Rehab and therapy are solutions for victims who have become deeply addicted. In the initial stages, however, sessions with psychologists and the emotional support from loved ones can go a long way.


Depression is the most direct consequence faced by adults who were sexually abused as children. The victims of child sexual abuse find the need to isolate themselves due to humiliation and embarrassment by what happened. This results very often in the victim falling into depression more easily.


In a study published in the British Medical Journal, researchers examined the link between sexual abuse in childhood and the rate of depression in adult women.


The results of the study showed that there was a strong interrelation between women who were severely sexually abused and women who were depressed.


Psychologists can help in the initial stages, however, if the problem transforms into clinical depression, then prescription drugs will be needed. At this time, a psychiatrist should be introduced for more clinical support.

Eating Disorders

In a study conducted at the University of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia, it was found that anorexia nervosa and bulimia, two eating disorders common in women sufferers, are strongly associated with childhood sexual abuse.


Long-term health, both physical and mental, is best achieved when the victims can receive therapy and counselling as soon as possible.

Relationship Difficulties

It's common for a child to be abused sexually by someone well known to them.


When a relationship of a child is first betrayal, they can be scarred for life. It's possible for a belief to be developed that no one can be trusted.


The voluntary isolation due to the shame and embarrassment of what took place makes it hard for them to fully open up to anyone, causing more wall to be built.


Researchers have found that because the victims are not good at handling stressful life situations, their relationships are more prone to conflicts.


Couples counselling can be helpful if one of them is a victim of child sexual abuse. Also, going to a psychologist is a good idea because they can give the victims the mental support they crave.


In Australia, the setting up of the Royal Commission into Institutional Sexual Child Abuse has also proved beneficial for victims seeking to address these wrongs through legal means.


“The legal process can seem intimidating, but it can play a powerful role in helping survivors to heal”, writes Peter Kelso of Kelso Lawyers a specialist in institutional child sex abuse cases.


While the Royal Commission has focused on financial compensation, bringing child abuse under public scrutiny may go a long way in addressing some of the emotionally crippling consequences of guilt and shame experienced by victims.


One thing family and friends of child abuse victims can do is provide consistent love and emotional support to help them cope with the repercussions of child abuse.


Other Sources


About the Author

David Trounce

[caption id="attachment_1676" align="alignnone" width="150"]David Trounce Is a self-employed marketing consultant and father of four little Australians living in Port Stephens, Australia.[/caption]

David Trounce has a Diploma in Journalism from ICS Australia and has a working background in Mental Health and Education. David has written for The Huffington Post and Channel Innovation.