Childhood Abuse

If you were sexually abused when you were a baby or a toddler you may not fully remember what happened to you and you may have problems identifying what your upset feelings are about. Your inner child may not be able to make sense of past events as you would not have known what sex was or had the words to describe what was happening to you. However, there may be residual effects from the abuse that manifest as seemingly illogical feelings or bodily symptoms. Do you act out certain behaviours at certain times that feel very irrational but compulsive? It can be very confusing feeling upset but not being able to pin point why. The following text is designed to help you investigate your emotional and physical reactions . However, not everyone who displays all or some of these symptoms will have been abused as a child. Please use your discretion.

Firstly notice if you are triggered into having overwhelming negative feelings by things that seem unrelated. By triggered I mean suddenly feel strong overwhelming difficult feelings.  Perhaps you feel upset by certain places, noises, smells, words, pop music from your childhood era, or something odd like old TV shows may trigger these feelings for you. Perhaps you react strongly to being touched in a certain way or when someone uses a particular tone of voice. These sensations may mean you cannot stand to be around that certain stimulus. Perhaps it makes you feel a specific, or a lot of different emotions for no particular reason that you can make sense of. These feelings may include:

  •          intense stress
  •          anger
  •          tearful
  •          afraid
  •          confused
  •          phobic
  •          revulsion

You could also have a physical sensation such as:

  •          feeling nauseous
  •          tense
  •          shaking
  •          unable to move
  •          muscular spasm
  •          burning sensations
  •          shooting pains
  •          headaches
  •          migraine
  •          have an overwhelming urge to sleep
  •          mental fogginess leading to tuning out of that moment

The stress might be so much it brings on a panic attack, or asthma. 

After the overwhelming sensation you may feel the need to get away from the stimulus as fast as you can. You may need to:

  •          lie down
  •          numb out in front of television
  •          drink alcohol
  •          have a cigarette
  •          withdraw from other people
  •          cry
  •          shout at someone or thing
  •          lash out at someone or thing

You might find it had to rationalise why you feel the way you do. 

Perhaps you are finding just reading about this feels difficult or confusing.

You may have body symptoms that you cannot make sense of such as:

  •          Hot burning pain during sex
  •          Nonspecific vaginitis
  •          Chronic inflammation of the pelvis
  •          Muscular spasm of the pelvis
  •          Rigidity of the leg muscles, lower back and hips
  •          Frigidity
  •          Fear of vaginal  penetration
  •          Fear of child birth
  •          Cervical cancer
  •          Swelling of the pelvic region
  •          Obesity
  •          Substance addiction
  •          Arthritis of the hips

Perhaps you avoid having sex and have decided to be celibate, but deep down you know it is a choice made out of fear of sexual contact. 

There are other causes for these conditions of course and this is not an exhaustive list, but if reading this information is causing you to have an overwhelming negative feeling, then you can seek help. A skilled therapist can help you to uncover your past and help you work on recovering and re-owning your sexuality and body. You may never actually remember if you were abused as a young child but working on yourself in therapy can certainly help you to manage the residual symptoms and give you the therapeutic space to understand and process an array of painful feelings.


Photograph and text by Jenny Weston ©

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