Knowing the possible psychological impacts of sexual abuse is important to protect your mental health if you become a victim of sexual harassment or assault in California. A common misconception is that you can only experience psychological harm from assault or rape, but harassment can cause negative mental health impacts on victims too.
Depression is persistent feelings of sadness and can cause you to struggle with day-to-day activities. Victims of sexual assault and harassment often have feelings of shame and guilt, which are symptoms of depression. They may fall into a deep depression where they have little enjoyment of life and feel things are hopeless. There are varying degrees of depression, and one person may have different symptoms than another.
Other symptoms of depression you might experience:
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Slowed thinking, speech or body movements
- Difficulty concentrating
- Suicidal thoughts
You could develop PTSD if you don’t seek mental health treatment for your sexual assault or harassment. It’s normal to experience negative effects after a traumatic event. If you experience a certain range of symptoms for more than a month, a health care professional might diagnose you with PTSD. A PTSD diagnosis requires at least two cognition and mood symptoms, two arousal and reactivity symptoms, one avoidance symptom and one re-experiencing symptom. Examples of re-experiencing symptoms are nightmares, flashbacks and frightening thoughts. Being startled easily, feeling on edge, having difficulty sleeping and experiencing angry outbursts are arousal and reactivity symptoms.
When an abuse victim doesn’t receive professional help for their psychological symptoms, they are at higher risk of developing an addiction, whether that is a behavior addiction or a drug addiction. Keep a journal of all the psychological symptoms you experience each day to assist in seeking compensation for your pain and suffering. Also find a psychologist or another mental health professional with whom you feel comfortable to process the trauma and heal from its psychological impacts.