Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse Who Blame Themselves or Others for Abuse More Likely to Develop PTSD

A new study from the University of Granada has found that victims of child abuse who blame themselves and their families for what happened to them are more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder. The study, which examined 160 university students who had been sexually abused as children, also showed that individuals who blame themselves or their family members for being sexually abused are more likely to avoid facing their problems.

Many of these individuals tend to sleep more than usual, avoid thinking about what happened to them, or try to self-medicate with substance abuse. This behavior can lead to the development of symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The research was led by David Cantón Cortés of the Department of Evolutionary and Educational Psychology of the University of Granada and professors Fernando Justicia Justicia and José Cantón Duarte. They collaborated with the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom and examined how different cognitive variables affect the development of PTSD symptoms.

The researchers looked at how feelings of blame and guilt affect victims of childhood sexual abuse, as well as the role played by cognitive strategies. They also looked at which circumstances (related to sexual abuse) have a higher impact on cognitive factors.

For the study, 1,500 female university students were asked to answer an anonymous survey, and 160 women were identified as having been victims of child abuse. The study is considered innovative because it examines the role of cognitive variables in the psychological adjustment of child abuse victims and analyzed the role of these variables, depending on the circumstances of the abuse. In other words, it looks at the conditions that make these cognitive variables have a higher impact on psychological adjustment.

Cortés said that the results could help in treatment of people who are victims of child abuse, because it allows clinicians to identify important intervention areas, such as coping strategies, feelings of guilt, and feelings that are caused by sexual abuse.

Source: Science Daily, Child Abuse Victims and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, October 27, 2010

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