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Old 06-09-2006, 03:36 PM   #1
janbear
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Child Abuse and Adult Anxiety -Article

Child Abuse and Adult Anxiety -Article

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Child Abuse and Adult Anxiety
From Cathleen Henning,

When the past won't let go
Does anyone else out there have anxiety as a result of being abused as a teenager by a familiar adult? I feel overwhelmed and don't know what to do. I feel guilt, like I caused the abuse. -- Molly1983
If you are an adult survivor of child abuse and also have an anxiety disorder, you are not alone. People with anxiety disorders are more likely than the general population to have been abused as children. Anxiety disorders that have been studied in correlation with child abuse have included more than post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you were abused, it may not be necessarily the cause of your anxiety disorder; however, if you haven't ever faced your abuse with treatment or other support, your past may be affecting your ability to recover from your anxiety disorder.

Many studies have been conducted on child abuse and anxiety disorders, with a variety of results:

Researchers at the University of Michigan found that 35% of victims who had been abused emotionally, physically or sexually, were prone to major depression and panic disorder as adults.1

A study at the University of California found the following2:
15.5% of men and 33.3% of women with anxiety disorders (the disorders included were panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and social anxiety disorder) had experienced childhood physical abuse.
45.1% of women with anxiety disorders had experienced childhood sexual abuse.
Among the women with anxiety disorders who were sexually abused, 60% were more likely to have panic disorder than the other two anxiety disorders.

Another study at McMaster University of people with anxiety disorders found that 23.4% had been abused sexually and 44.9% had been abused physically.3

In a study at the University of Miami, researchers found that 63% of people with panic disorder, agoraphobia and/or social anxiety disorder had experienced some kind of childhood trauma. Of these disorders, social anxiety disorder was most highly linked with sexual and/or physical abuse histories.4

Based on numerous studies, University of Nevada researchers found that 33% to 86% of adult survivors of child abuse have post-traumatic stress disorder.5
These statistics do not mean necessarily that the disorders were caused by the abuse. They do mean that a certain percentage of people (based on the study) with anxiety disorders are more likely than the general population to have been abused as children. Whether or not the anxiety disorder was caused by the abuse is still up for debate along with other theories about the causes of anxiety disorders. The exception would be in the case of PTSD. If you have PTSD and were abused as a child, it is likely that there is a relationship between the two.

Dealing with the abuse is going to be the hardest thing you will ever do, but it is worth every minute. Don't be a prisoner to the abuse. GET HELP. Find support. Don't try to deal with this on your own, but deal with it. You have to take control of your life back. It is very scary, but you can do it. -- Tkkkk5

If you have an anxiety disorder and were abused as a child, your treatment plan may need to be different than that of someone who was not abused. Many major mental health organizations, such as the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA), recommend cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), medication or a combination of both as the best treatment for most people with anxiety disorders. With CBT, a person learns techniques such as relaxation exercises to help cope with the disorder. Needless to say, these techniques are helpful for many people with anxiety. In the case of childhood abuse, however, you may need more than coping techniques for the anxiety.

According to the US Surgeon General, "Very few treatments specifically for adult survivors of childhood abuse have been studied in randomized controlled trials." Group therapy has been found to be effective with female survivors. However, the Surgeon General points out that, "In the practice setting, most psychosocial and pharmacological treatments are tailored to the primary diagnosis," which would be the anxiety disorder (or depression, etc.). In other words, it's important for your treatment providers and you to design the best treatment plan for you as an individual.

If you are an adult survivor of child abuse and think you may have a problem with anxiety, you should discuss how you are feeling with your current treatment provider and ask for referrals
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