Holistic Trauma Treatment for Sexual Abuse

If you’ve been sexually traumatized, fear is likely a major factor in your experience of life and relationships. In addition to flashbacks, disruptive memories, shame and self-blame, you may also be feeling a sense of unease constantly pervading your thoughts. Sexual abuse creates deep-seated trauma that often takes professional treatment to dislodge. This trauma can lead to anxiety disorders, eating disorders, PTSD, substance addiction, other mental health issues and can lead to unwanted intimacy patterns that keep you stuck in toxic relationships. The depression that results from this horrible maltreatment often leads to feelings of hopelessness and a bleak outlook on life. But sexual abuse is not your fault. And in order to heal from it, you need a safe space in which to face your shadows and reclaim your power. Talk to An Expert

Kelley Alexander JD. Program Director of The Sanctuary at Sedona discusses Treating Trauma for Sexual Abuse Holistically in a Safe Environment.

The Shame of Sexual Abuse

It’s estimated that half of women and one in five men in the US experience sexual abuse at some point in their lifetime. For trans, nonconforming and genderqueer people, that number jumps to two in three. That’s a lot of hurting people. But because the shame and embarrassment around sexual exploitation runs so deep; because self-blame is such a common reaction to this experience of violation; and because sexual abuse remains a taboo topic in our society, most survivors don’t come forward. In fact, the most common response to sexual trauma is to avoid it entirely, by evading the people, places and things that remind you of it. And depending on how severe your trauma is, that could mean cutting yourself off entirely from the outside world – at a time when you need support the most.

What are the Effects of Sexual Abuse

The effects of sexual trauma vary from person to person. Often, because memories of sexual abuse are suppressed for so long, symptoms manifest in unexpected ways or at delayed times. These can include:
  • Intimacy issues
  • Energetic blockages around sex
  • An inability to get emotionally close in relationships
  • Compulsive or high-risk sexual behavior
  • Mood swings and agitation
  • Pronounced fear and anxiety
  • Flashbacks
  • Attention problems
  • Hyper-alertness, feeling unsafe
  • Inability to keep up with your daily obligations
  • Declining academic or career performance
  • Negative self-talk
  • Low self-esteem
An overwhelmingly common response to sexual trauma is to simply bury it. There are many reasons people feel compelled to do this: they might worry that the perpetrator will retaliate; that no one will believe them or that they’ll disrupt longstanding relationships of people closely involved with the abuser. They may (rightfully) fear that people will respond with doubt and questioning. Or they may be confused about what exactly happened, because their mind has blocked out the details and context of the event in an attempt to protect itself. All that shame and denial keeps sexual abuse a secret and allows it to continue without detection, in the shadows. Experts agree that for every one case of sexual abuse that’s reported, two go unreported. That amounts to millions of people who aren’t getting the help they need for their pain. And until sexual trauma is treated, we continue to stay trapped in our cycles of suffering.

Sexual Trauma and Co-occurring Disorders

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is the most common mental health disorder arising from sexual assault. Because the nature of sexual abuse is so sensitive and impactful, it can have deeply engrained psychological effects. If you’ve survived sexual assault, you may experience flashbacks – where images of the event replay in your mind – or nightmares, which can drastically interfere with your sleep patterns and worsen your anxiety. PTSD can progress into complex post-traumatic stress, or C-PTSD, which also involves a persistent fear of abandonment.

Anxiety Disorder

Survivors of sexual abuse are more likely to suffer from a variety of anxiety disorders, including agoraphobia: fear of open spaces. They might also develop disproportionate fear reactions to things and situations that trigger memories of the event, like people whose physical appearance is similar to that of the abuser.

Depression

Most people feel deeply saddened after experiencing sexual abuse. But sometimes these feelings persist and develop into a chronic state characterized by numbness, hopelessness about the future and a general disinterest in life. Depending on the severity, this can even lead to self-harm and suicidal behavior.

Intimacy Disorders

When we’re sexually abused, it teaches us not to trust. Survivors of sexual abuse are often wary of others, and find it very difficult to let their guard down even in situations that are safe. Because sexual and emotional intimacy require us to be vulnerable in order to have connected, satisfying experiences, this emotional state can severely interfere with our ability to form and sustain healthy bonds with others.

Addiction

Drugs, alcohol, sex and compulsive eating too often become go-to escapes for those wanting to avoid emotional pain, and survivors of sexual abuse are no exception. Trauma dramatically throws off your limbic system, the parts of your brain that regulate your fear response. As a result, sexual assault survivors may feel they’re always on edge – and substances are an easily available way to temporarily self-soothe. While this is a coping mechanism, it is an unhealthy one, and one that quickly ramps up into dependence and addiction, compounding issues and making matters far worse.

Treating Trauma Holistically in a Safe Environment

Sexual abuse makes us feel unsafe; an essential part of the healing process is getting our sense of safety back. All of the pain and trauma of sexual abuse takes time to heal from – and that’s ok. There may be times when you feel you’re moving forward, and times when you have a bad day. Your job is to be gentle and kind with yourself, and have patience and an open mind as you watch your healing journey unfold. While mainstream trauma treatment focuses on talk therapy, a growing body of research points out that treatment that doesn’t also address trauma in the body, soul and spirit is not as effective or long-lasting as holistic treatment that heals from within. At The Sanctuary, we offer a completely immersive healing experience that deeply transforms your life. We work with your shadow, soul, neurochemistry and biochemistry to create real, lasting changes, in an environment of total non judgement. After treatment, you’ll see what it’s like to embody the education you receive – and have your life reflect it. Feel what it’s like to restore a sense of love, connection, belonging and peace to your life – call us at (877) 710-3385 to learn how.

Stay Connected With UsBlog & News

Speak With a Counselor Today, Call Now: (877) 710-3385