Sexual Abuse and the Five Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Responses
Sexual abuse survivors, as well as people who witness these activities, often develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Contrary to popular belief, PTSD is not a processing disorder that randomly affects some victims and leaves others untouched. Instead, PTSD is a stress-related brain injury. Extreme stress enlarges the amygdala and squeezes out the cerebral cortex. The amygdala controls emotional responses, and the cerebral cortex controls logical responses. The resulting imbalance causes symptoms like anger, depression, nightmares, and hypervigilance—all reasonable responses for someone who has been attacked.
This brain injury, like most others, is permanent. Therefore, PTSD victims usually need medication and therapy for the rest of their lives. Additionally, the symptoms, even if somewhat manageable, can make it almost impossible for people to function on a day-to-day basis. Survivors deserve compensation to help mitigate the financial stress caused by treatment compounding the stress of the instigating event. Below, we will highlight the five types of PTSD.
Normal Stress Response (NSR)
Secondhand witnesses, such as family members of abuse survivors or survivors of the same offender, often develop NSR. Basically, these victims have some trouble functioning when something like sexual abuse invades their lives. These victims normally do not need medication or therapy. Instead, they just need someone to talk to, especially on a bad day.
Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)
Normally, ASD is a precursor to PTSD. If doctors and therapists quickly intervene, ASD may not progress to PTSD. But that requires a lot of foresight and proaction. NSR and ASD symptoms are almost identical. Only a very good doctor can tell the difference and get ahead of the problem.
PTSD medications often keep the brain’s chemical-imbalance response from getting worse. That means these drugs can be very powerful, which can lead to strong side effects. Sometimes, people find they cannot handle the prescribed dosage. PTSD therapy is often hit-and-miss. Not everyone responds to individual and group therapy in the same way.
Unfortunately, this name is quite misleading. “Uncomplicated” does not mean the PTSD is easy to treat. Instead, it means PTSD caused by a single event that is not compounded by other mental health conditions such as depression.
Uncomplicated PTSD is one of the more commonly diagnosed disorders and is highly responsive to therapies. At this stage, the drugs are stronger, and therapy is more intense. Some doctors use experimental drug treatments like MDMA (ecstasy or molly) to treat uncomplicated PTSD. Such drugs have shown some promise, but they are by no means a proven method. As for therapy, these victims usually need more and longer sessions.
Childhood sexual abuse is often ongoing. For example, according to the recent Attorney General report, Catholic churches and schools in Maryland often allowed predators to abuse children for as long as multiple decades.
The resulting PTSD is much more deeply rooted as the trauma was repeated over and over for months or even years. As a result, the symptoms are much worse. They usually include suicidal thoughts and fits of extreme rage. Survivors often need hospitalization so they do not harm themselves or others. People with complex PTSD often need more individualized and specialized medical and therapeutic treatments from their doctors.
Many victims self-medicate with alcohol or drugs to ease extreme PTSD symptoms. This approach often works for a while, which encourages these patients to stay on this destructive path. As their bodies become tolerant to drugs and alcohol, they need ever-increasing amounts to obtain the same effect.
By the time these victims reach out to doctors, the doctor must treat not only an advanced case of PTSD, but also an advanced case of substance abuse.
Contact a Compassionate Sexual Abuse Survivor Attorney Today
If you or a loved one is a sexual assault survivor, you or they are entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced sex abuse survivor lawyer in Baltimore, contact The Yost Legal Group: 1-800-967-8529. Remember, you are not alone. We will help you get the justice you deserve.