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How Child Sexual Abuse Impacts My Schizophrenia

February 4, 2019 Randall Law

Childhood sexual abuse and schizophrenia intertwine tightly to me. Learn how a history of childhood abuse affects my schizophrenia at HealthyPlace.

I survived sexual abuse as a child, but did it contribute to my later diagnosis of schizophrenia? Research suggests a possible link between psychotic disorders and childhood trauma, but the exact nature of this link remains unclear.1 The significant impact of child sex abuse on my life, however, is indisputable. 

Child Sexual Abuse Changed My Life 

I was nine when I was sexually abused by a family friend. He brainwashed me over the course of several years and it took a significant amount of time before I even realized the nature of what was happening. When the fog lifted, I was overwhelmed almost instantaneously. My state of mind morphed from the structured innocence of my childhood to the anarchistic hell I’ve known since. My mind cracked.

I wanted to go back to being brainwashed; I desperately tried to pretend that nothing had happened. Then the responsible party called to discuss future plans. I’ll never forget the moment when I finally mustered the courage to tell my mother. I slowly walked down the stairs and stated with dread: “He [name redacted] is a bad man.”  

The truth came flooding out and I actually felt significant relief. My relief was short-lived, however. I was asked to testify against the perpetrator in court. The moment I arrived outside the courtroom and took a seat next to the man who stole my innocence is seared into my memory. I nearly wet myself out of sheer terror. It took years to overcome the fear that he would hunt me down and take my life; I’ll never overcome the horrors of testifying against him in court.

The Link Between Childhood Sexual Abuse and Schizophrenia

The link between my traumatic childhood and my diagnosis of schizophrenia torments me. I began to experience paranoia long before I heard voices. I became deeply suspicious of everyone and everything around me after I was abused. I loathed authority figures and I constantly questioned the motives of those around me. In some ways, my current symptoms represent a more pronounced, debilitating version of those I initially experienced. 

That’s what troubles me. I constantly wonder whether my issues are related to schizophrenia or to unresolved issues pertaining to sexual abuse as a child. My therapist is very familiar with my obsession related to this question. She refers to my behavior as “mental gymnastics.” The irony is that, unlike physical gymnastics, mental gymnastics aren’t beneficial to the participant.

Does a History of Child Sexual Abuse Impact Schizophrenia?

How does my history of child sexual abuse impact my schizophrenia? I really don’t know. And ultimately, it doesn’t matter. It is not important that I determine exactly which symptoms are due to child abuse and which are due to schizophrenia. It is not important that I fully understand what contributed to the onset of schizophrenia. What is important is that I stood tall and faced my abuser to protect others from suffering a similar fate. It is important that I partner with my therapist and medical provider to improve my mental health. Above all, it is important that I never give up.
 
From a young age, I embraced a simple truth that has yet to fail: determination conquers all. Whether you suffer from mental illness or not, there may come a time when you feel that you can’t possibly go on. I felt this when I was sexually abused; I felt this when I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. But with the support of those around me, I placed one foot in front of the other and stepped forward. Nothing can stop me from moving forward. Never give up.

Sources

1. Friedman, Trevor and Tin, N.N., "Childhood Sexual Abuse and the Development of Schizophrenia". Postgraduate Medical Journal. August 2007. 

APA Reference
Law, R. (2019, February 4). How Child Sexual Abuse Impacts My Schizophrenia, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/creativeschizophrenia/2019/2/how-child-sexual-abuse-impacts-my-schizophrenia



Author: Randall Law

Randall Law is a physician assistant, wedding cake design assistant and home renovation assistant. He is excited that this new opportunity to write a blog comes without the title of assistant. He writes because he cares about others and because it provides an outlet approved by both his wife and his therapist. Randall's wife, Megan, is the author of Mental Illness in the Family here at HealthyPlace where she writes about her own perspectives. Find Randall on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and his blog.

Valerie Connolly-Briand
December, 27 2023 at 9:41 am

My 30 year old son who suffers from schizophrenia just told me about the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of the community janitor/bus driver at the age of 7. He was a very venerable child who had a speech impediment which caused him to be socially isolated in the tight knit community in which we had just moved. He has been tortured by the "demons" ever since. He tells me he can physically feel the pain of the abuse he endured as a child to this day. I want to get him the help he so deserves so he can live a life with less pain and sorrow.

December, 29 2023 at 1:56 pm

I'm so sorry to read about what your son has gone through. That must be very difficult for you both.
Unfortunately, I'm not an expert in childhood trauma. The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) might be able to help refer you to resources. You can contact them at 1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656 4673) and at https://www.rainn.org/
You can also call 9-8-8, which is the general Lifeline number; they may be able to point you to resources as well.
I hope that helps. Best, Elizabeth Caudy

Sarah Nelson author Tackling Child Sexual Abuse: Radical Approaches 2016
March, 6 2023 at 11:06 am

Dear Randall, thank you very much for your very honest discussion. I think that you should try and stop worrying so much about which of your symptoms resulted from the CSA, and which from schizophrenia. They probably nearly all resulted from the CSA and your reactions to it, and the nature of your own PTSD. Remember "schizophrenia" is simply a psychiatric diagnosis based on a collection of symptoms, in which medical-model psychiatrists have long had a huge investment and about which many of us are very sceptical. Only some sexual abuse survivors develop a psychosis, but most people with psychosis have been sexually abused, and the voices they hear are so often those of their abusers or their own voices expressing disgust and blame against themselves. The images some see are very often those of their abuser(s) too. Dr John Read and colleagues have done excellent research on links between CSA trauma and psychosis, as you probably know, and more research is developing all the time. Of course the great psychiatrist Dr Judith Herman was very prominent and outspoken on trauma, menta lhealth and abuse connections in the late 80s and early 90s. Survivors, researchers, radical progressive professionals in the mental health system all need to work together to reinstate and reinforce the fundamental impact of trauma on mental health and make treatmentS and aids to recovery RELEVANT to past trauma. Freud recognised the link in a very humane paper way back in 1896, but disowned his own findings after a welter of professional criticism.. And of course ultimately a key way to reduce mental ill health is to reduce the incidence of child sexual abuse and exploitation through primary prevention.
Can I also say that your linking of paranoia to the deep distrust you developed as a result of the CSA is very helpful and thought provoking. Interestingly enough, paranoid symptoms seem much more common in male survivors than female ones. Not sure the reasons, bit of a puzzle.

Dr Musli Ferati
February, 12 2019 at 12:08 am

Indeed, child sexual abuse presents yet taboo theme in community even numerous anti child sexual abuse laws. This turmoil psycho-physical abuse impact profoundly normal mental development of sexual abused child, causing and provoking different and irreversible mental disorders. Among them schizophrenic psychosis is the most dangerous implication around this nebulous child abuse. In this extreme social prohibited issue the innocent victim remain the abused child, because ignorant attitude of community ruins psycho-social integrity of respective sexual abuse child. So many immoral acts against this fragile persons remain uncovering and unproved by legal institutions. This mischance fact furthermore precipitate the emotional and psychological suffers of sexual abused child. So, it ought to open the Pandore case and freely to discus on this repulsive abuse of children at any time and elsewhere. Without this correct and unshyness approach toward sexual abuse of children the morbid outcomes of this perverse abuse would be more traumatic for sexual abused children. In addition, this statement confirms your heroic withstanding with your sexual abuse in childhood age in spite of serious mental disorder.

February, 13 2019 at 3:00 pm

Thank you so much for your reading and for sharing your in-depth knowledge on this subject. I wholeheartedly agree that our approach towards child sexual abuse tends to make the abuse more, rather than less, traumatic.

Teri
February, 10 2019 at 9:58 pm

Thanks so much. :( was much younger for me. The baggage carried on all my life.

February, 13 2019 at 3:01 pm

Thank you for reading Teri. I am sorry to hear of your experience and hope that you will be able to find comfort despite what happened to you.

Brandon Creer
February, 10 2019 at 12:02 pm

the statement not all heroes wear capes was never more true. I had no idea Randall. That was one strong kid to do what you did at such a young age. And that strong kid grew into an even stronger man. I believe you truly are and can be and inspiration to others.

Kathryn
February, 6 2019 at 11:59 am

Wow...just WOW! Wow for your endurance, courage, empathy, and forward movement. Thank you for sharing. And keep talking and sharing. I'm listening

Desiree Chesebro- Moeller
February, 4 2019 at 10:41 pm

Oh my gosh! I can't begin to explain the myriad of emotions that I experienced reading this. My heart breaks for that child and his lost innocence for understand that feeling of betrayal all too well. Less than a handful of people are aware of what occured to me one summer afternoon in July 1963. A neighbor that I adored as a grandfather figure sexually assaulted me. Convinced me that it was okay and threatened to hurt my parents if said anything. Long story short I was so afraid to tell anyone that it continued throughout the summer. I found the courage however when he asked me to bring my two year old brother to him. The experience forever changed my life. I no longer trusted men. I never had to face him in court as no believed me. I was simply seeking attention. It was my darkest secret.
Now our situations are different but similar, and after reading your blog and listening to you I felt compelled to share this part of my life with you. Your words of never giving up ring loud and clear to me. I know the courage it took to tell this story, the fear you felt for I too felt that tonight. Randall, thank you for not giving up, for continuing to demonstrate your strength and for sharing this emotional event in your life. Remember this....not all heroes wear capes, some are a bit broken and scarred.
I hope you understand that I was not trying to make light of your situation, but rather make a connection.

February, 6 2019 at 11:27 am

Desiree,
I am so sorry to hear of what happened to you and commend you for the courage to protect your sibling. I am so sorry to hear that you weren’t believed. I know the feeling from my court experience. Thank you very much for reading and sharing.

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