The effects of sexual abuse do not go away, although they may fade with time. Children may show different effects than adults, but even adults abused as children often exhibit behavior caused by the abuse. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, these effects are often complex, devastating and varied in adults.
Mood disorders or mental health problems
Adults abused as children often display mental health problems later in life. Although this does not mean that every adult with a mental illness is an abuse survivor, some of the more common effects include:
- Fear, shame or humiliation
Abused individuals often have extreme emotions that are difficult to control, although it may take additional treatment to uncover the cause of the emotions.
Along with mental health problems, many child abuse survivors have long-term problems with their gynecologic health. This may include vaginismus, nonspecific vaginitis, chronic pelvic pain and dyspareunia. Many also have gastrointestinal disorders.
Lack of care
Many women abused as children will not seek out preventative care for things like ovarian cancer or breast cancer. They may avoid yearly check-ups and prenatal care when expecting. This can lead to increased risks of cancer that requires early intervention and treatment.
Increased health care costs
Abused individuals, at times, do not understand the behaviors caused by the abuse. Adult childhood sex abuse survivors also incur greater health care costs and use health care services more often than those who were not abused.
Adults abused as children are often more likely to use illicit drugs or abuse alcohol, have eating disorders, neglect their own care and be physically inactive.