Trauma and PTSD can affect self-esteem, body image and the ability to manage intimacy in healthy relationships. People who have experienced trauma may find themselves having difficulties if that trauma is not thoroughly addressed, and it can be disruptive to mental health. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD can create a dissociative relationship an individual has with their body, an automatic effort of the mind to protect a person from the trauma they’ve experienced.
Many survivors of trauma can be easily startled or fearful and preoccupied with distressful memories and thoughts about the event. They may begin to be reluctant to be touched or apathetic and under-responsive to intimacy and touch. Current research has shown that survivors of childhood sexual abuse report a disturbance of the cognitive-affective component of their body image, a person’s perceptions of his/herself in a situation.
It is common for survivors of sexual trauma to experience profound guilt and shame about having been victimized. Being victimized by people from whom protection, affection or respect are expected can create a negative, distorted sense of identity and self-worth. This will compound with time the instinctual responses to a traumatic event; fearful responses are reinforced by feeling disempowered, and in some cases victims will blame themselves, looking for personal faults and mistakes that can be corrected in to prevent further abuse.
The development of a healthy body image can be severely impaired by violations of body boundaries, leading to symptoms of body dissatisfaction and in some cases mental health disorders and self-harm. It’s vitally important that survivors of trauma seek professional help in the form of therapy and treatment. Current techniques in creative and cognitive therapy have been found to have phenomenal results for patients struggling with PTSD and body image issues.
If you or someone you love has experienced trauma and is struggling with negative body image or coping skills, don’t hesitate to reach out today for help. It is possible to find a healthy and positive expression as a survivor.