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Sexual Abuse and Substance Addiction

Sexual abuse is a common determining factor in substance abuse risk. Finding the right addiction rehab and recovery facility that can also help address issues related to sexual abuse can be an important part of recovery. If you or someone you know has turned to substance abuse as a result of sexual abuse, you should know there are many others who have been where you are.

Help for substance addiction is available if you call our helpline at . We understand the complicated relationship between sexual abuse survival and substance abuse, and we are here to help equip you with the information and support you need to get on the road to recovery and find substance addiction and sexual abuse treatment centers.

Sexual Assault Facts

Most sexual assault is perpetrated by someone who the victim knows and trusts, such as a friend, acquaintance or family member. The victim of a sexual assault committed by a trusted person must deal not only with the trauma induced by sexual violence but also with the feeling of harsh betrayal. It is common for victims of sexual abuse to feel helpless, angry, powerless and often hopeless as a result of the abuse. The victim may even blame himself or herself out of misplaced guilt over the abuse.

Every two minutes, someone is sexually assaulted in the United States alone, adding up to more than 200,000 sexual assault victims each year. More than half of all sexual abuse goes unreported, and many of these victims turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of coping with the traumatic effects of sexual abuse.

The most important thing that anyone can do when a victim of sexual abuse confides in him or her is to listen, offer support, and encourage them to seek medical, psychological, and/or legal help. Counseling can be invaluable after any such serious, traumatic event, as well as sexual assault recovery programs. But people are often hesitant to reach out at first. In such cases, it is not uncommon for the person to withdraw and attempt to self-medicate through the use of drugs and alcohol.

Link Between Addiction and Sexual Abuse

AnxietyBecause sexual abuse is such a traumatic experience, self-medication often seems like a preferable option to seeking help. The victim may be embarrassed or afraid to seek counseling or medical attention at sexual abuse treatment facilities right away.

Signs of Substance Abuse from Sexual Trauma

Friends and family of a person who is a suspected victim of sexual abuse should look out for the following signs that their loved one is misusing substances to cope with the trauma:

  • Sudden social withdrawal
  • Change in mood
  • Depression
  • Lack of interest in normal activities
  • Change in appearance
  • Anxiety

Each of these symptoms is a common occurrence after sexual assault has occurred, but significant changes in appearance and behavior also often indicate substance abuse. If you or someone you love is exhibiting signs of substance abuse don’t wait to seek help. While a medical professional is the best person to diagnosis a substance addiction, our knowledgeable and understanding navigators are available 24/7 to provide information about finding sexual abuse and addiction recovery programs.

Mental Health and Sexual Trauma

For those who have experienced sexual trauma, like childhood sexual abuse (CSA), there may be an increased risk for developing psychiatric disorders.2 When it comes to substance addiction treatment, it can be important to address these psychiatric conditions along with substance abuse. Individuals diagnosed with substance use disorder (SUD) and a mental health disorder have co-occurring disorders, which can be addressed during treatment.

The following mental health conditions may be associated with sexual trauma:

Depression: A mood disorder characterized by persistent sadness, feeling of emptiness, irritability, restlessness, and/or sleep issues. Depression can present in different forms such as postpartum, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or bipolar disorder. Risk factors for depression can include family history, major life changes and trauma, certain illnesses, or medications.3

Anxiety: Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) presents as excessive worry and anxiety that continues most days for at least 6 months. This anxiety can cause problems at work, school, home, and in relationships. Other anxiety disorders include panic disorder, phobia-related disorders, and social anxiety.4

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): A disorder that can develop in people who experience shocking, scary, or dangerous life events. People with PTSD may feel frightened or stressed even when they are not in a dangerous situation. People may experience flashbacks, nightmares, and frightening thoughts that relive the trauma over and over again.5

Eating disorders: These disorders can severely disrupt a person’s eating behaviors through a preoccupation with food, their body weight, and appearance. Severe eating disorders can be serious and even result in fatality. There is a range of eating disorders that include Anorexia nervosa, Bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.6

Inpatient Treatment for Sexual Abuse Survivors

Many people choose to seek treatment at an inpatient sexual abuse treatment center and addiction treatment program as opposed to an outpatient program. While outpatient programs are beneficial for someone who can’t be away from home or work for an extended period of time, inpatient programs may be appropriate for someone looking to receive 24/7 care and/or experiencing co-occurring mental health conditions.

“Many people choose to seek treatment at an inpatient sexual abuse recovery and addiction treatment program as opposed to an outpatient program.”

Substance abuse that is linked to sexual abuse survival is particularly challenging to recover from because the person is often triggered by traumatic memories. An inpatient environment provides the individual a safe and secure location in which they can focus on their healing process.

Inpatient centers have around the clock supervision and medical care, which can make managing withdrawal  safer than being at home. People also have access to counseling and medical professionals at all times. For this reason, it is crucial to choose an addiction rehab and sexual abuse rehabilitation facility in which the individual feels comfortable.

Substance Addiction and Sexual Abuse Recovery

Recovery from sexual abuse and substance abuse can be a long and difficult process, but it is certainly possible. Surrounding oneself with professional care in a supportive environment can be important to a person’s recovery process. Many sexual abuse and addiction survivors join support groups or networks in their local areas for support during their recovery.

If you need more information on choosing the right sexual abuse and addiction recovery program for you, please call us at . We are here to listen and help you find the treatment you need.

[1] Sexual Assault Reports, Laws | Rape Statistics. Retrieved March 7, 2016 from

[2] Shrivastava AK, Karia SB, Sonavane SS, De Sousa AA. (2017). Child sexual abuse and the development of psychiatric disorders: a neurobiological trajectory of pathogenesis. Ind Psychiatry J.

[3] National Institute of Mental Health. (2018). Depression.

[4] National Institute of Mental Health. (2018). Anxiety Disorders.

[5] National Institute of Mental Health. (2019). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

[6] National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Eating Disorders.