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Posts Tagged ‘Does child abuse cause illness?’

On my blog entry entitled Rough Day with Eating Disorder Yesterday, a reader posted the following comment:

Isn’t it true that abuse survivors have more illness than those who are not abused? Right now I am into my fifth auto-immune disease diagnosis and I can tell you when I first hear the news I get mad at all those years I spent fearful, abused, anxious, panicked. It downright makes me want to scream even though I know intellectually that this tendency of my body may have been something I was born with and would happen no matter what. ~ Esther

I am sure that informal polls as child abuse survivor sites would show the answer is yes, but we don’t have to rely on informal polls to answer this question. Medical research is showing these results as well.

According to the Adults Surviving Child Abuse website,

Adults surviving child abuse are more likely to suffer from a range of physical health problems than other people. These illnesses include migraines, chronic pain, arthritis, chronic fatigue and irritable bowel syndrome. A recent survey of over 2500 older Australians with a history of physical and/or sexual abuse found that survivors were also more likely to suffer from three or more physical illnesses at once (Draper, Pirkis et al. 2008). ~ Adults Surviving Child Abuse

It makes sense because child abuse survivors do not know how to relax. We have a stress hormone constantly coursing through our veins. That has got to take a toll on our bodies physically over time.

I was not aware that my seemingly unending string of illnesses was related to the child abuse until I read this excerpt from the book Safe Passage to Healing by Chrystine Oksana:

Everything [in my adult life] was perfect – well, almost perfect. I was constantly sick, a condition I kept secret…I woke up every morning feeling dead. The hardest thing I had to do was get my lifeless body out of bed…The slightest cold weather would put me in bed…

I kept trying to find a reason for my illness. I had been such a healthy kid, always on the go, athletic. I almost never got sick. But after the age of eighteen, things began to change. I started getting colds, flus, muscle stiffness, depressions, and just an overall bad feeling…By thirty-five I was barely making it day to day. In search of a cure, I went from doctor to doctor, from test to test, only to be told, “Everything is normal. Continue to rest.” That’s what I’d heard for the past seventeen years as my condition worsened. ~ Safe Passage to Healing, pp. xvii & xviii

Chrystine Oksana goes on to share the same thing that is covered in the Adults Surviving Child Abuse article: The stress from the child abuse causes our brains to overproduce certain stress hormones. Over time, this takes a toll on our physical bodies, causing all sorts of physical ailments.

Since I have been through therapy and worked through many of my issues from the child abuse, my immune system has gotten stronger. Instead of staying sick throughout the winter months, I generally suffer from one or two colds. Instead of each cold lasting for three weeks, I can now kick a cold in under a week. So, there is hope. It is angering, though, to know that the aftereffects of the child abuse echo on for decades.

Other blog entries on illness:

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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