How Sexual Assault Victims Can Overcome Symptoms of PTSD

Reaching out a Maryland psychiatry office can help create a path to healing

It is an all too common reality that many are silently struggling with the aftermath of of a sexual assault. Due to stigma, many survivors are discouraged from speaking out and seeking help dealing with the continued PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) that occurs after an assault. However, speaking out can lead to a life changing difference in mental health and open up access to important resources for recovery. First, we’ll start by defining exactly what PTSD is and how it works, then we’ll explore some of the most common solutions to help you or a loved one move forward after an assault has occurred. If you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD it is a good idea to contact your local Maryland psychiatry office and begin to create a roadmap to recovery. Remember, recovery from a sexual assault is not a straight line and there is no set time period for recovery. Everyone’s trauma is different and needs individualized care and attention.

What is PTSD?

A Maryland psychiatry office can help you learn about the signs and symptoms of PTSD

model brain with stethoscope gloved hand blue and white
PTSD can take many forms and occur at any time after a traumatic event.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, PTSD is defined as: “a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, or rape or who have been threatened with death, sexual violence or serious injury.”

Though PTSD symptoms can be triggered by many different events, sexual assault or sexual violence is one of the traumatic events listed. Originally, PTSD was thought to only be experienced by soldiers returning from war and it was referred to as “shell shock”. It is important to know that PTSD can affect anyone, anywhere and at any age. If you think you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD, contact a Maryland psychiatry office to speak to a licensed professional.

There are many different symptoms of PTSD that can arise at any time after the traumatic event. Some of the common symptoms include: 

  • Intrusive thoughts that present as repeated, involuntary memories, distressing dreams, or flashbacks
  • Avoiding reminders of the event which can manifest as avoiding people, places, activities, objects and situations that trigger memories of the traumatic event
  • Trouble accessing certain memories or distorted memories
  • Consistent negative self talk
  • Loss of interest in activities that once brought joy
  • Overall feeling of detachment from friends or loved ones
  • Self destructive behavior
  • Paranoia or trouble concentrating

These symptoms can manifest any time from one month to three months after the traumatic event. To be diagnosed with PTSD, symptoms usually occur and must persist for at least one month after the event. Sometimes, PTSD symptoms don’t appear until years later. As mentioned before, everyone’s experience with PTSD is different and must be treated that way. Below, we listed some ways to overcome symptoms of sexual assault as a resource for those in need. 

Staying Safe

After an assault, it is most important to keep yourself safe

three young people taking a selfie wearing masks trendy clothes on the sidewalk jackets
It can take a while to feel safe after you have experienced trauma.

After a sexual assault has occured, feelings of vulnerability and fear are completely normal. If you have been affected by sexual assault, it is likely that you want to take steps to ensure your safety in the future. This can bring peace of mind to many survivors who feel like the world around them is less safe than before the assault. Here are a few options to help survivors feel a sense of safety even after an assault:

  • Identify safe spaces in your community, like domestic violence shelters
  • Monitor your online privacy settings to ensure you are not being tracked
  • Talk to others you trust and establish a plan in case of another assault
  • If you live with the person who is harming you, begin making preparations to leave. This includes creating a plan to leave, packing a bag, telling others you trust, and establishing backup plan 

Important Safety Note: If the ongoing dangerous situation involves a partner, first go to the police or a shelter.

Therapy

Finding someone to talk to is often one of the first steps to recovery

For many survivors of sexual assault, therapy is a good step to take toward healing. While it might not be for everyone, it is often soothing to talk candidly with a licensed professional. Many therapists offer coping strategies that can ease some of the symptoms of PTSD. 

If you are interested in finding a therapist, there are a few things to pay attention to to make sure it's the right fit for you.

Experience is key to finding the right therapist for your needs. Many Maryland psychiatry centers have therapists who specialize in sexual assault and PTSD. It is so important to speak to someone who has treated your symptoms before and is able to help you figure out the best treatment plan.

There are also many different approaches to therapy to consider when looking for a therapist. Some therapists specialize in certain types of therapy, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy, that may be appealing or unappealing to your needs as a survivor.

Taking Time for Self Care

A Maryland Psychiatry center can help you learn comforting coping skills

man sitting on a ledge black in white thoughts contemplation
Mental health and physical health go hand in hand.

Self care has become a hot topic in recent years. However, this is a different type of self care than taking some time for yourself or going for a walk. Self care is an important tool to aid recovery in sexual assault survivors because PTSD symptoms can affect your mood, eating habits, sleep patterns and many other factors. If these symptoms are left unchecked, your body and mind will start to feel fatigued. 

To combat symptoms of PTSD, and to prevent them from getting worse, it is important so survey how you are feeling and what could help you feel better in the future. It is important to speak with a Maryland psychiatric car provider before making any major changes in your routine. Some of the habits to pay attention to are:

  • How are you sleeping?
  • Are you eating regularly?
  • Are you still participating in activities that bring you joy?
  • Are there important tasks you are neglecting?

If you are having difficulty taking care of yourself after an assault, that's okay! It is one of the many symptoms that can occur at any time when experiencing PTSD. The important part is to notice how your self care is affecting you and take steps toward better self care. This is a good topic to bring up with a therapist who can provide some suggestions to improve your self care.

It is extremely difficult to discuss issues like sexual assault and PTSD, but it is important that we keep the conversation going every day. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of PTSD, you can contact your local Maryland psychiatric care center for help navigating and recovering from trauma. Remember, there is always help out there and there is no singular journey through PTSD brought on by sexual assault.

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