Search Offenders

Can Child Sexual Abuse lead to schizophrenia?

Jun 25,2022

Studies suggest that incidents of sexual abuse can increase the vulnerability of survivors to mental health conditions like schizophrenia. Throughout the years, research has demonstrated the strong relationship between schizophrenia and child sexual abuse. Males who have gone through some kind of sexual abuse are said to be 1.3 times, and females with sexual abuse experiences are 1.5 times more likely to develop symptoms of schizophrenia than the general public.

Exposure to sexual abuse gives rise to mental trauma, which can thus lead to the development of schizophrenic development among adolescents. The risk of developing the symptoms increases if the younger one has experienced an act of penetration. Not only are these children more vulnerable to schizophrenia, but also to the development of other mental diseases like anxiety, depression, suicidal behavior, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), etc.

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder affecting approximately 1% of the US population. A patient with schizophrenia goes through chronic distress. In several cases, it can appear that the person has lost touch with reality. As per the research conducted, it is seen that the disease impacts both males and females in almost an equivalent ratio. Some of the symptoms of schizophrenia include:

  • Delusions

  • Hallucinations, hearing or seeing things that are not present

  • Unusual thinking and disordered speech

At the early stages of the development of the disease, more subtle signs might be visible. However, later on, the presence of stronger symptoms can lead to its diagnosis.

Schizophrenia is defined by an inability to function in situations. Sexual abuse results in trauma which leads to both psychological and biological effects. This can further give rise to the development of the signs of the illness. From a psychological perspective, sexual assaults disrupt the trusting ability of the survivor. It also results in difficulties in maintaining relationships with people. On the other hand, from a biological perspective, sexual abuse can lead to hormonal imbalance among the victims resulting in problems in adapting to painful experiences.

According to a study, patients with schizophrenia demonstrate a higher prevalence of childhood trauma. 21-65% of the individuals have had experienced childhood sexual or physical abuse. Additionally, patients with increased trauma face difficulties in their treatment, have poorer social functionality, deteriorated mental and physical health than those who have had no experience of childhood trauma.

How to get along with schizophrenia?

Living with any type of mental illness is extremely difficult for the patient as well as the people around the person. Hence, here are a few ways to get along with schizophrenia:

  1. Gathering information and educating oneself about the illness in depth

  2. Seeking medical health when the initial symptoms start to show up

  3. Regular medication is important to keep going

  4. Try getting back to school, work, or things that you love

  5. Try conversing with the people you love and who care about you

  6. Visiting hospital as and when required without any delays

As per a study, 5-35% of children are physically abused by 18 years, 15-30% of girls, and 5-15% of boys are sexually abused. The cases of childhood sexual abuse at early ages lead to the development of early trauma among the children, which thus lead to several mental health conditions including schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. Thus, to get along with the mental disease, it is important to primarily consider its root cause, that is, child sexual abuse.

To combat the psychosocial problem, it's important, in the first place, that the children in the society feel safe and are not at constant risk of being molested or harassed. Studies say, that most cases of sexual abuse towards children are enacted by relatives or acquaintances. Most often, parents have a view that their children are unsafe outside the boundaries of their houses. On the contrary, investigations reveal that they are at a greater risk inside their own doors. Hence, not only is it crucial for the parents to ensure their safety outside but also inside.

Here are a few steps you can take in order to protect your children at home:

  • Listen to the child when he/she discusses something with you related to a sexual assault. Stay calm, trust them, and try to comfort your child.

  • If you do not feel safe leaving your child with a relative, try avoiding that.

  • Technology has made child sexual abuse easier over the years. Try monitoring the use of technology like social media websites, contact lists, etc. Ask them questions in case you have doubts.

  • Teach your children about appropriate and inappropriate touches and help them distinguish between the two.

  • Try teaching your children about taking care of their own bodies like bathing so that no one else has to do it for them.

  • Take note of changed behaviors like isolation, anger, etc. Also, pay special attention to physical signs like rashness, redness, etc.

Apart from parents taking steps to safeguard their children, it is also the responsibility of the governments to take preventive strategies to reduce child abuse cases. Effective measures should focus on making changes to policies and societal norms with an aim to create a safe environment for children.