How Sexual Trauma Can Lead to Addiction

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The Risk of Addiction Associated with Sexual Trauma

When an individual is abused sexually, whether it is in childhood or after reaching adulthood, it can have a dramatic impact on the mind.

Sexual trauma can cause changes to the cortisol levels within the body. Those changes to the hormone levels in the body can bring out stress and fear.

Furthermore, post-traumatic stress disorder can develop after a sexual trauma occurs, which increases the risk of depression, flashbacks and substance abuse.

Fear and Shame

Part of the reason that sexual abuse can lead to addiction is the way that it is viewed within society. Individuals can develop fears or feelings of shame that grow over time when they experience situations that remind them of the abusive situation.

Psychology Today studies estimates that roughly one in three women and one in five men have been sexually abused by the time they reach adulthood. Extended sexual abuse, such as abuse that occurred during childhood on more than one occasion, can change the way that an individual thinks and behaves.

Fear and shame are emotions that can lead to high levels of stress. Boston University suggests that individuals who have been sexually abused or who have faced a traumatic experience may lose their sense of trust in others. They can become withdrawn and may attempt to alleviate their pain, fear, guilt or other negative emotional states of mind with a substance.

Changes to the Brain

The emotional factors that can contribute to substance abuse are only one aspect of the possible problems that may arise. The human brain is developing from childhood into late life.

When you or a loved one experiences a sexual trauma, it can change the way that the brain develops. The exact changes that develop depend on the age when the trauma occurred, but the U.S. Library of Medicine suggests that the impact on the brain is a change to the way that hormones are regulated and managed.

Those changes can lead to odd behaviors or trying solutions that would not have been considered before the traumatic experience.

Use of Substances

The use of substances can depend on the situation. In the case of sexual trauma, there are two situations that may arise: the individual may use prescription medications or illegal substances.

When you or a loved one seeks assistance after a traumatic experience, a doctor may suggest the use of medications for anxiety or depression. The medications can help reduce the feelings of fear that may develop, but are also potentially addictive.

For some individuals, an addiction can develop accidentally due to the use of prescription medications.

Self Medicating

Self-medicating can also lead to an addiction. Using alcohol or an illegal substance to help reduce feelings of fear, worry or anxiety can result in developing a tolerance over time. The longer that the substance is abused, the greater the risk of developing an addiction.

Help for Addiction Associated with Sexual Trauma is Available

After facing sexual trauma, the risk of developing a mental health disorder and an addiction are higher than average. You or a loved one may become depressed, fearful, anxious or panicked. Attempting to alleviate those emotions can result in the use of prescriptions or other substances, which increases the risk of developing an addiction.

If you fear an addiction has developed in yourself, or a loved one due to sexual trauma we can help. Contact Intervention Services Inc. today for a confidential assesment. We are here to help.

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