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Trauma is a general term describing an emotional or psychological response to a distressing or traumatic event. Several events can trigger trauma, including the loss of a loved one, illness or injury, or abuse. Sexual abuse, sexual assault, and all forms of rape are significant causes of trauma.
A trauma response is very personal and symptoms vary substantially. Due to the wide spectrum of trauma responses, psychologists have created groups to categorize trauma, including complex trauma, developmental trauma disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Therapy can help people process trauma and reduce their symptoms.
Trauma, including sexual trauma, can trigger a wide range of emotions including shock, denial, anger, sadness, and guilt. These emotions may in turn trigger mental health disorders including depression, anxiety, personality disorders, eating disorders, and a reliance or addiction to drugs or alcohol.
Flashbacks and physical symptoms, including headaches and nausea, may also be triggered by trauma. Some victims of sexual abuse avoid relationships because they are triggered by sexual contact. Yet sex addiction can also be a response to trauma, as victims look to take control of sex once again. Some people bounce back quickly from trauma and seem to have little to no lasting side effects.
Sexual abuse is not the only kind of trauma that falls under the umbrella of sexual trauma. Growing up in an environment where sexual development is not supported or shamed can also be traumatic. So can the opposite type of environment, where young people are pressured to engage in sexual experimentation or exposed to sexual content before they are ready.
Therapy can help people who have suffered trauma. However, it should be tailored to the individual and their symptoms. If you have suffered sexual trauma, look for a therapist experienced in dealing with this kind of trauma. Cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness therapy, and talk therapy are common therapeutic treatments for people who have suffered sexual trauma. Neurofeedback, which aims to change the brain waves to make trauma victims more relaxed and less anxious, is a promising emerging treatment options. Therapy is a long road, but in time many victims of sexual trauma and other traumas can heal.