Sexual Abuse

Helping adults recover from emotional trauma caused by sexual abuse, either suffered in childhood or in the present time, Dr. Z employs Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), or if more appropriate, a therapeutic technique called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or EMDR. Both are non-invasive, relatively rapid-acting treatment that can produce dramatic recoveries and in most cases promote immediate relief and well-being.

Trauma from sexual abuse

What Is Emotional Trauma Resulting From Sexual Abuse? Traumatic memories and all memories in general are processed by the brain and stored in different ways. Even mildly traumatic experiences can sometimes become etched or “burned-in” with a high degree of detail. In these cases, it is not only the memory of the fact that is preserved, but also the intense emotional experience of it. When a significant event is moderate in emotional intensity, it is usually stored in long-term memory. The long-term memory process works as it should and the memory of significant events is stored and remains retrievable throughout our lifespan. Traumatic events, on the other hand, can disrupt this process and cause the brain to store memories almost entirely as emotions or sensations rather than as a nearly emotion-free recollection of facts. When events are particularly traumatic, the brain can attempt to mitigate the effects of the trauma by burying the memory very deeply, sometimes even to the point of blocking it entirely from recollection.

Mental effects in adulthood

 Researchers describe the effects of sexual child abuse as complex posttraumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). The most common symptoms of C-PTSD are problems with emotional regulation (being “up” and then suddenly “down” with or without an apparent trigger), alterations in consciousness (the feeling of “not being here”), alterations in self-perception (the feeling of “not being me”) and the perception of others (they may feel unreal or strange), and alterations in systems of meaning (purpose of life, ability to enjoy life.) This indicates that changes have occurred in the way the brain processes information (“alterations”), especially memory and consciousness. Later in life, there may be certain sensory “triggers” that cause seemingly forgotten material to resurface, often at inappropriate times and circumstances. The memories related to the trauma may return in the form of pure sensations or emotions, sometimes involving “flashbacks” that feel like the memory is being partially re-experienced. Traumatic memories may become progressively more focused until they become a full recollection of the event and the traumatic emotions associated with it.  This phenomenon (and its symptoms) may vary in intensity. At at its worst, it is known as complex posttraumatic stress disorder or C-PTSD. 

Memory-Repression of Childhood Sexual Abuse in Adults. Traumatic sexual experiences always involve a betrayal of trust, particularly in childhood abuse, and can cause severe suffering, impaired daily functioning, increased risk of further victimization and perpetration of abuse, and diverse mental health and relationship problems.Betrayal trauma theory suggests that psychogenic amnesia (the “forgetting” of unpleasant memories) is an adaptive response to childhood sexual abuse. When a parent or other powerful figure (a significantly older child or an adult) violates a fundamental ethic of human relationships, the victim may subconsciously choose to block the memory of the trauma to reduce suffering and to ensure survival. Psychogenic amnesia enables the child to maintain normalcy, which is vital to survival, development, and thriving. The degree to which a sexual abuse victim feels as having been fundamentally cheated or betrayed by another person may significantly influence the individual’s willingness to “remember” experience of trauma, the degree to which the event is easily recalled, and the psychological as well as behavioral responses in relationships with other people.

Get help

To make an appointment with Dr. Z, call (678) 554-5632 or click the blue button to request an appointment using the online form. We can go over your current situation, identify the ways in which the lingering effects of past or recent emotional trauma are affecting your life and that of your loved ones, or how current conflicts or low functioning are impairing important relationships. We will put some dimensions to the problem and identify your current resources that may be applied toward meaningful and lasting change. If appropriate, we will treat specific trauma issues with EMDR. Treating emotional trauma is feasible, proven to be effective, and has helped many people who had a variety of different symptoms and challenges. Call and make your appointment today and we can get started!

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Help for sexual abuse with EMDR

What Is EMDR? The technique known as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can causes intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes.Twenty positive controlled outcome studies have been done on EMDR. Some of the studies show that 84%-90% of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder after only three 90-minute sessions. Another study, funded by the HMO Kaiser Permanente, found that 100% of the single-trauma victims and 77% of multiple trauma victims no longer were diagnosed with PTSD after only six 50-minute sessions. In another study, 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in 12 sessions. There has been so much research on EMDR that it is now recognized as an effective form of treatment for trauma and other disturbing experiences by organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association and the Department of Defense. Given the worldwide recognition as an effective treatment of trauma, you can easily see how EMDR would be effective in treating the “everyday” memories that are the reason people have low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, and all the myriad problems that bring them in for therapy. Over 70,000 clinicians throughout the world use the therapy. Millions of people have been treated successfully over the past 20 years. Learn more about EMDR