Sexual abuse is a major trauma for children and teens. This can have long-lasting and severe effects on a child’s mental and emotional well-being.
The following are possible signs of posttraumatic stress disorder, which can be caused by sexual abuse.
- Intrusive thoughts, flashbacks or memories of abuse can cause the child to recall the traumatizing experience.
- Avoidance behavior, which includes withdrawing from family and friends or refusing talk about the abuse.
- Increased arousal and hypervigilance including trouble sleeping, insomnia, and an irritability.
Cognitive-behavioral treatment (CBT), is one possible intervention to help with the trauma from sexual abuse. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a treatment that focuses on changing the ways a child responds to trauma. It addresses and challenges negative beliefs and thoughts about abuse. You can use relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation and deep breathing to ease anxiety or distress.
There are two options available to help parents and guardians:
- Provide information to them about symptoms and possible causes of PTSD. They can recognize signs and symptoms of PTSD in their children, so they can seek the appropriate treatment.
- Parents or guardians should encourage their children to go to therapy. This will help them to understand and support the child’s trauma, as well as learn to manage the emotional reactions.
Noting that severe trauma can lead to long-term psychological problems, both parents and their children must be assessed and given a treatment plan.