Sexual abuse wrecks lives. If it happened to you as a child, then it might take decades for its full effect to take hold. And when it does, it might leave you barely able to function as you struggle to cope with serious mental health issues, which may include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance use disorders.
As you fight to find a way to regain control over your life, you might be left feeling like hope is lost and the future is bleak. Your abuser have never been brought to justice, and you might not know how to get a handle on your mental health in the aftermath of your abuse. While a lawsuit against your abuser may be justified, even decades later, leaving you with a sense of justice if you succeed on your claim, legal action is only going to do so much for your mental health.
That’s why this week we wanted to take some time to look at what you can do to take care of yourself as you try to find a way to cope with what’s been done to you.
How to address your mental health after being sexually abused
Even though things look bleak, there are steps that you can take to try to ease the burden that you’re carrying. This includes seeking out therapy. If you’re hesitant about doing this, just keep in mind that a therapist is non-judgmental, and they must keep your sessions confidential.
And through therapy, you might engage in any of the following helpful treatments:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: This type of therapy focuses on learned patterns and harmful behaviors and, in response, how to learn better ways of coping with your distress. This type of therapy has been proven to be highly successful in a number of contexts, including in the treatment of sexual abuse victims.
- Supportive therapy: This type of therapy assists you in untangling your emotions so that you can more clearly identify them and learn new skills for coping with them. This can give you the tools that you need to get a handle on the ramifications of your abuse.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: With this type of therapy, you move your eyes in conjunction with certain sounds. Its goal is to change your thoughts and behaviors that stem from your abuse. You do this by focusing and reprocessing your memories of the traumatic event so that you can repair the harm that was caused to you. In other words, this type of therapy focuses on rewiring your brain so that you can heal from the trauma that’s been caused to you.
What else can you do?
Although therapy and other forms of mental health treatment can be extraordinarily helpful as you try to heal from your trauma, your options for recovery don’t stop there. You can also consider each of the following:
- Find ways to calm yourself, whether through meditation, yoga, or some other activity that relieves stress and centers you.
- Discover new ways to cope with your fears of triggering flashbacks.
- Find social support from your friends and family.
- Avoid substance use that can trigger distressing memories.
You might find other ways to alleviate your stress, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues that may be negatively impacting you. By talking to your therapist, you might be able to find new strategies that work for you.
With that in mind, we encourage you to be open-minded about seeking the help and support that you need. Do your best to make sure that you do everything you can to protect your safety, health, and well-being. Hopefully then you can gain control over your past and focus on the bright future that’s ahead of you.