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Feelings After Sexual Trauma

The effects of trauma can be influenced by many different internal and external factors, so what you may be feeling will vary significantly from another person.

Studies show that between 17% and 65% of women who were sexually assaulted in adulthood exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can develop following a traumatic event and is diagnosed by a physician. The symptoms of PTSD can be categorized physically and psychologically.

Physical symptoms

Psychological


Kristen R. Choi, PhD, a registered nurse and researcher at UCLA who studies trauma explains that trauma is different for everyone, but two of the more common reactions are feeling very strong emotions or feeling little.

You might have overwhelming negative emotions or not be able to stop crying. On the other hand, you might feel numb and unable to experience pleasure or pain.

It is also not uncommon to feel guilty or ashamed after trauma has sunk in. For example, you might think you didn’t react the way you should’ve. That’s normal, but if those feelings linger for more than a few weeks, you should look for help. 

On the other hand, you might behave in unexpected ways after trauma. For example, some people engage in more risk-taking behaviours, which might seem unusual, especially if you’ve just survived a situation where your life was in danger, but it’s a normal reaction.

“If you feel like the trauma you experienced is making it hard for you to live your life — for example, do your job, experience pleasure, or have healthy relationships — it can be a good idea to seek professional help”

Kristen R. Choi

A first step you can take is to acknowledge that you’ve gone through trauma and accept that your emotions might be affected. After that, you can consider reaching out to a healthcare professional. They may be able to provide resources to help you feel better.

Here are some resources you can reach out to for help:

National Sexual Assault Hotline 800.656.HOPE (4673)
RAINN online.rainn.org
Crisis Resources https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/crisis-resources

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