Traumatic Stress Disorder: Sexual Abuse
I. What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
One of the things which danger does to you
after a time is -, well, to kill emotion. I don't think I
shall ever feel anything again except fear. None of us can
hate anymore - or love.
- Graham Greene
Fear is the destroyer: the paralyzing agent
that causes humans to retreat. Trauma causes fear, and fear
causes extreme stress. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
is a condition that sometimes follows a terrifying physical
or emotional event that causes the survivor of the event to
have persistent memories or flashbacks of the event.
Abuse in childhood, specifically for the purpose
of this paper, sexual abuse, is considered a traumatizing
event, an event that may trigger the extreme stress and anxiety
of PTSD. Some research estimates that in the United States,
about 10% of boys and 25% of girls have been sexually abused.
Sexual abuse occurs in private, and because sometimes there
is a lack of physical evidence, it can be difficult to detect.
II. Symptoms and Characteristics of PTSD
Survivors of trauma repeatedly experience
extreme emotional, mental, and physical distress when something
or some event reminds them of the traumatic event. Some may
experience sleep problems, depression, feelings of detachment
and numbness, jitteriness, loss of interest, loss of affection,
irritability, aggression, and avoidance of certain situations
The symptoms of PTSD are irritability, violent outbursts,
trouble in school or in social situations, flashbacks (re-experiencing
the traumatic event, over and over again), losing touch with
reality, and reenacting the event for periods of time.
In the case of sexual abuse, sometimes the symptoms include
inappropriate sexual behavior.
III. How is PTSD Diagnosed?
PTSD is diagnosed if symptoms last more than one month. Symptoms
may appear with three months of the trauma, but can also start
months or years later. PTSD may be accompanied by depression,
substance abuse, and anxiety disorders. Assessments are made
by a physician, pediatrician or clinician.
The acronym DREAMS is used as a diagnostic in PTSD. Simply,
the letters stand for:
R: Rexperiences the event (flashbacks, nightmare)
E: Event: A traumatic event that triggered the distress
M Month: The symptoms have been present for a month or longer
S: Sympathetic hyperactivity: trouble concentrating, hyperactivity
IV. How is PTSD treated?
A. Methods of Treatment
- Psychological Debriefing
- Cognitive Behavior therapy: Cognitive-behavioral
therapy is a combination of behavior therapy and cognitive
therapy. Cognitive Behavior therapy teaches people coping
skills and how to deal more successfully with their environment.
Exposure therapy is also used as a means of desensitizing
the patient to the trauma.
about Cognitive Behavior Therapy
skills are taught: slow breathing, etc.
- Medication therapy
b. Benzodiazepine (tranquilizers,
c. Anti-depressants: reduce nightmares,
and anxiety. Reduces depression.
V. I suspect that my child has Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome
- what do I do now?
Professionals to Seek Out
- 1. See your physician
- Consult with your clergy to assist in spiritual
and practical guidance
- Consult with an educational consultant
you find the right program for your child.
- Consult with a therapist or counselor.
- Consult with an Educational Advocate to
you with your current school situation
- Consult with an Educational Consultant
the right program for your child.
out more about Educational Consultants
- Inpatient: hospitalization
Outpatient facilities have therapeutic staff on-hand to
offer therapy and support to patients on a part-time basis.
Emotional Growth schools are highly structured environments
that stress academics and teach coping skills through the
use of conflict resolution. Children learn they can make choices
and learn to accept responsibility through the use of modeling
behavior and outdoor therapy. The length of stay is between
9 and 18 months, at which time they either return to the mainstream
or attend a boarding school, if possible. Parents are involved
with the school staff and the children throughout the child's
attendance at the school.
out more about Outdoor Therapy
Residential Boarding School
These schools are usually fully accredited schools with emotional
growth programs. They stress holistic education: growth of
the person through holding children responsible for their
actions. There is no rehabilitation or physicians on staff.
A Therapeutic Wilderness program does not necessarily have
academics; their goal can be to introduce the children to
a different role. These programs use Outdoor Therapy to help
build low self-esteem. They make obtainable goals for them
to reach. The programs vary but they are about 6 to 8 weeks
long. It is a very structured program with a goal of teaching
the children coping skills and raising their self-esteem.
Children go from this program to mainstream back into their
public school or attend a small structured boarding school.
out more about Therapeutic Wilderness Programs
d. Residential Treatment School
A Residential Treatment Program or School provides a full
professional staff that includes therapists, psychologists,
and psychiatrists. They also have a small academic program.
Many of the children in the program have been recommended
there by mental health agencies that make the placements.
It is a highly structured environment whose emphasis is on
treatment and learning coping skills and independent living.
Chemical dependence education and rehabilitation is also provided.
Outdoor therapy is sometimes used to facilitate building social
skills and self-esteem. Recovery programs are also available.
Residential Treatment schools are secure schools.
more about Residential Treatment Schools