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  1. #1
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    Can childhood sexual abuse cause mental illness later?

    Does the person already need to have a genetic predisposition towards developing bipolar or no? In other words, can abuse cause mental illness in people with no family history of it?
    Furthermore, would this person's children inherit a greater chance of developing bipolar?

  2. #2
    Member little red's Avatar
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    Ok ... this thread caught my attention because you referred to childhood sexual abuse - something which I know about, but mental illness is something that I don't know a lot about so anyone reading this who knows better please correct me if I'm wrong in what I say ...

    As far as I understand, bipolar disorder is a brain disorder so I've always had the impression that it is something that is either within you or isn't.

    But ... I believe that childhood sexual abuse can cause a person to display behaviour, signs and symptoms that are very similar to someone having bipolar disorder but the difference would be that it was caused by an experience, not a brain disorder and could therefore be alleviated with the correct therapy.

    Obviously it is also posssible that someone who was sexually abused as a child could also have bipolar disorder as well, but I would doubt that it is possible for the abuse to be the cause, the trigger yes, but not the cause.

    I don't know if this is any help, as I said, I'm no expert, but it's how I understand it. Would be interested to hear others responses.

    LR

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    Silver Member arwen's Avatar
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    I think these are questions that even science has no absolute answers to. In many articles I have read that people who have been traumatized (by abuse in some form or another) have a increased risk of developing bipolar disorder and multiple personality disorder. That does not imply that all people who have this disorder have a past of abuse, of course. My friend is bipolar without genetic or traumatic background though. I have a tendency for major (unipolar) depressions and I have a history in my family of people with the same disposition.

    I think your last question is even more difficult, one would have to find evidence that trauma causes changes in the GENES (in addition to hormonal inbalances that co-occur with these mental illnesses). Only then can it be inherited. That would require longitudinal research on families, maybe a place to look for studies are psychological research centers of universities.

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    I guess your questions relate to the "nature vs nurture" arguement. Of all elements of the arguement, one thing aspect is fairly well agreed. That is that some sort of situational trauma (ie "nurture") will not in itself cause a genetic predisposition in subsequent generations. Thats all to do with DNA etc... etc...

    They are two very different topics, one dealing with what effect traumatic situations have on someones emotional wellbeing later in life, the other being what effect gene's have on your propensity for emotional wellbeing to be effected. They only relate in that they can combine... ie... someone is genetically predisposed to bipolar being "triggered" by a traumatic incident in childhood.

    I believe the statistic is as high as 1 in 5 people will experience mental illness at some stage during their life, typically a depressive episode. This figure is commonly used in advertising for mental ilness research here in New Zealand, although I have no idea what basis it is made on. Regardless, many people who have traumatic evens go on to lead normal and happy lives, and sometimes people with no particulary traumatic events end up off the rails
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  5. #5
    Super Moderator BellaDonna's Avatar
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    This topic is a popular subject of research. http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/...ract/155/6/806

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/1079481.stm

    As others have mentioned, there are no real definite answers. There are just likelihoods and probabilities.

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    Platinum Member Juliana's Avatar
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    Childhood sexual abuse always causes mental illness later; the only question is, what kind and how bad. It is present in the history of the vast majority of Borderline Personality Disorder sufferers. BPD is frequently misdiagnosed as bi-polar illness.
    "I cannot rest from travel, I will drink life to the lees." -- Tennyson

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    There is a very high correlation between childhood abuse and people diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder.

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    Sorry to hijack this thread but what are the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder? And how long after the event does it come on?

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    Member little red's Avatar
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    "Childhood sexual abuse always causes mental illness later; the only question is, what kind and how bad."


    Juliana, Can I ask you what you mean by 'mental illness' in this context?
    Last edited by little red; 12-22-2006 at 05:32 PM.

  10. #10
    Platinum Member Juliana's Avatar
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    I'm curious as to why you'd ask.

    Characteristic Sequelae of Childhood Sexual Abuse (Brier, 1989)

    1. Intrusive memories or flashbacks to and nightmares of the abuse
    2. Abuse-related dissociation, derealization, depersonalization, out-of-body experiences, and cognitive disengagement or "spacing out."
    3. General post-traumatic stress symptoms, such as sleep problems, concentration problems, impaired memory, and restimulation of early abuse memories and emotions by immediate events and interactions.
    4. Guilt, shame, negative self-evaluation, and self-invalidation related to the abuse.
    5. Helplessness and hopelessness.
    6. Distrust of others
    7. Anxiety attacks, phobias, hypervigilance, and somatization (conversion of emotions into physical complaints).
    8. Sexual problems.
    9. Long-standing depression.
    10. Disturbed interpersonal relatedness, including idealization and disappointment, overdramatic behavioural style, complusive sexuality, adversariality, and manipulation.
    11. "Acting out" and "acting in" including parasuicidal acts (i.e. cutting) and substance abuse.
    12. Withdrawal.
    13. Other-directedness.
    14. Chronic perceptions of danger.
    15. Self-hatred.
    16. Negative specialness -- that is, an almost magical sense of power.
    17. Impaired reality testing.
    18. A heightened ability to avoid, deny and repress.
    Last edited by Juliana; 12-22-2006 at 06:14 PM.
    "I cannot rest from travel, I will drink life to the lees." -- Tennyson

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