Signs of Child Sexual Abuse in Adults

What are the signs of child sexual abuse in adults?

The signs of child sexual abuse can take many forms. Many adult survivors may experience the following:


  • Experiencing panic attacks, numb body areas, feeling disconnected from their bodies (these are usually signs of trauma)
  • Difficult to experience orgasms or erections.
  • Experiencing persistent physical pain (stomack, neck or back and andrological/ gynecological problems, for example) despite good self-care.
  • Water splashing in the face feels unberable
  • very low physical boundaries
  • Numb body parts, unaware of body or bodily felt sensations,
  • unable to trust their own body


  • a deep sense of shame leading to a feeling of being wrong
  • an intuition that something wrong has happened without the recollection of any experience
  • A fear that they might abuse children the way they were abused
  • low self-esteem, feeling unworthy and dirty
  • Sadness, fear and anger that feel overwhelming and difficult to control
  • A strong desire to live in isolation, feeling lonely
  • Panics, rages, depressions
  • Low emotional and spiritual boundaries
  • Arousal when reading about child being abused

Thoughts/ Memory/ Intellect

  • suicidal thoughts
  • memories of unmet childhood needs might surface when caring for children causing depression and sadness
  • Childhood blackouts where large chunks of time are forgotten.
  • Unable to recall periods of their childhood
  • Repeatedly spotting double meaning in conversations
  • Re-experiencing emotions of the abuse when faced with specific smell, taste, image, noise, touch.


  • a lack of emotional and practical skills for dealing with their present “grown-up” world
  • Compensating for shame or inadequacy by becoming “over-achievers.”
  • Avoiding promiscuity, sex or specific sexual positions
  • struggling to develop or maintain close relationships.
  • sleep disorders, or self-harm
  • Alcohol and drug dependency or any other addiction, eating disorders and obesity
  • Personal hygiene is either too challenging or is carried out excessively
  • Wearing inappropriate clothing
  • Scalding, cutting and picking skin

Whilst the symptoms listed in this article are usually common among adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, they are not a tool or test to help you diagnose yourself. This list is not designed to tell you for sure whether or not you were abused as a child. These are usually behaviours which prompt people to seek therapy. Please do not treat this list as tick box exercise and tell yourself “if I have ticked all the boxes I must have been abused in childhood”. This would be a premature conclusion and might not be as helpful as initially thought.

If you think that you might have been sexually abused as a child and wish to discuss this please contact me in confidence.

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