There have been many studies documenting the effect child abuse has on many women’s sexual activity later in life. Naturally, these problems impact a woman’s ability to sustain a loving, long-term, intimate relationship.
The foundations for good mental health are laid down in the emotional development that occurs in infancy and later in childhood. When a child experiences a warm, intimate and continuous relationship with his/her mother or other caregiver, that child will grow and thrive. On the other hand, an unresponsive parent, or one who responds inappropriately to a child’s needs, will increase the likelihood of the child becoming anxious and insecure in its attachment.
To have one’s inner sense of security shattered, particularly at a young age, disrupts people’s perception of a safe world. “A lack of predictability and controllability are the central issues for the development and maintenance of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The intrusiveness of the memories of past trauma appears to orient people toward doing their best to numb their feelings, to get away from those awful remembrances. I experienced this as I became more in touch with memoires of my own childhood abuse. I paid attention to and learned that I was shutting down my feelings, overeating to self-medicate or numb out, and dissociating to escape my traumatic feelings.
When growing up in an abusive environment, control becomes an important issue. Clearly, in the beginning, control rests with the abusive parents/caretakers, so children will adapt to their environment the best way they can. In the process, however, children become very attuned to high levels of stress—so much so that their autonomic nervous system is affected. They develop strong reactions to even relatively low levels of stress, and then it takes longer than normal to return to a restful state.
One of the issues I dealt with in my therapy was I knew I sometimes exhibited childlike behaviors that were irrational, but I didn’t understand why that continued to happen. As an adult, I observed my behaviors and wanted to change them. It wasn’t until I understood the application of “introjects” that I could begin turning those behaviors around.