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How Childhood Sexual Abuse Impacts the Brain

Brain Development After Childhood Sexual Abuse

When a child is sexually abused, it profoundly impacts their emotions and mental state, but it can also cause physical changes to their developing brain. Childhood sexual abuse is a risk factor for the development of psychopathology and can have a negative impact on brain development and functionality. Here's what you need to know.

Trauma and Brain Development

There are several ways in which childhood sexual abuse can impact the brain. One way is by causing stress. When a child experiences trauma, their body goes into “fight or flight” mode, releasing stress hormones like cortisol. This can lead to changes in the structure and function of the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning.

Another way that childhood sexual abuse impacts the brain is by affecting the development of the prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain is responsible for executive functioning, such as planning and decision-making. Studies have shown that abuse can lead to changes in the structure and function of the prefrontal cortex, which can impact a person's ability to make decisions and control their impulses.

Childhood sexual abuse can also cause changes in how the brain processes emotions. The amygdala is responsible for processing emotional information. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse often face long-term emotional difficulties including but not limited to:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Substance use

Related Article: The Long-Term Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Seeking Justice After Childhood Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is a traumatizing event that can leave physical, emotional, and psychological damage in its wake. Most survivors feel confused and don't know where to turn for help. Here at The Zalkin Law Firm, P.C., we believe you and are ready to support you through every step of the process. We understand how difficult it can be to speak out against your perpetrator, but doing so can bring them to justice and help you begin the recovery process. We will be with you every step of the way, providing the help and support you need to find closure and move forward with your life.

Contact ustoday (800) 477-2989 to learn your rights.


Frontiers in Psychology: Brain and Mind Integration: Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivors Experiencing Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment and Psychotherapy Concurrently
Wiley Online Library: Childhood Sexual Abuse and Brain Development: A Discussion of Associated Structural Changes and Negative Psychological Outcomes
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience: Neuroimaging of Child Abuse: A Critical Review