Symptoms of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

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Although appearing to be on a decline, child abuse is a horrible part of society and is normally grouped into four categories: physical, emotional, sexual and neglect. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 772,000 children were found to have been victims of child abuse in 2008. Often, survivors of child abuse must overcome lasting physical and emotional scars.

Physical Problems

Adult survivors continue to deal with physical symptoms of maltreatment even when the abuse occurred long ago. A 2001 study supported by the CDC showed that early childhood abuse could affect areas of the brain that impact language, cognitive and emotional development and mental health. This could result in hyperactivity and sleep problems. Another CDC study revealed that the risk of adult chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, obesity, high blood pressure, liver disease and high cholesterol is increased. Physical results of sexual abuse also include chronic pelvic pain, obesity and eating disorders, sexual dysfunction, addiction and gastrointestinal distress. Further, a study by the National Institute of Mental Health showed that "people who had experienced abuse or neglect 30 years prior to the study were more likely than controls to have had a sexually transmitted disease (STD)."

Emotional and Psychological Problems

When a child is abused, emotional and psychological trauma can result. A long-term study by the CDC found that, "As many as 80 percent of young adults who had been abused met the diagnostic criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder at age 21." These disorders include anxiety, depression, eating disorders and suicide attempts. Child abuse victims may also suffer from learning, attention and memory problems. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is another common problem for child abuse survivors, resulting in constant frightening memories and thoughts, feeling emotionally detached or numb and sleep problems. A study published in 2008 by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) found that, "having a history of child abuse...led to more than twice the number of PTSD symptoms in adults who had later undergone other traumas, compared to traumatized adults who weren't abused in childhood."

Behavior Problems

About 1/3 of children who are abused will eventually become abusers to their own children. Adults who suffered abuse often turn to smoking, drug or alcohol abuse. A report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that, "as many as 2/3 of people in drug treatment programs report being abused as children." Additionally, some adult survivors turn to lying, stealing or other illegal criminal behavior and end up arrested and incarcerated.