Why Sexual Abuse May Lead To Addiction

Sexual Abuse and Addiction: Is There a Connection?

There is often a link between having a history of sexual abuse and addiction. Not all people who develop an addiction were sexually abused, and not all sexual abuse victims struggle with addiction. The factors that contribute to addiction differ for each person, and individual perceptions and reactions to the surrounding environment may also contribute. 

For anyone who has a history of sexual abuse, it is important to understand how that may increase risks for addiction. It is also important to understand complicating factors and when to help someone seek treatment for substance abuse.

Sexual Abuse in Early Childhood: A Risk for Future Substance Abuse

Several studies show that a history of sexual abuse as a child increases a person’s risk for addiction as a teen or an adult. What is especially interesting about the studies that exist on this connection is that they span multiple countries. For example, one German study examined 100 patients in treatment for polytoxic drug abuse. They found that 56% of the men and 70% of the women had a history of sexual abuse during childhood. However, 80% of the participants did not relate their childhood sexual abuse to their addiction. That is another common trend in studies.Common-Types-of-Substance-Use-Disorders-Among-Sexual-Abuse-Victims

Since many people do not attribute past sexual abuse as a factor in addiction, it suggests that many victims may be unaware of their risks. Another important factor to consider is that women are often more likely than men to develop an addiction if they experienced sexual abuse in the past. According to one university research study, women who were sexually abused as children were three times more likely to develop a substance use disorder than those who were not sexually abused in the past.

Sexual abuse is a form of trauma for people of any age, and it is especially traumatic for children. In one study that analyzed childhood traumatic experiences of adults, women who experienced trauma were more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They were also more likely to develop a substance use disorder. However, the link between substance abuse and a history of childhood sexual abuse was significant in male and female participants.

Why Sexual Abuse May Lead To Addiction

The pain and mental anguish from sexual abuse can linger for a lifetime. Many victims feel ashamed or afraid to seek the help they need to work through issues that come from one-time events or ongoing abuse. Because they often do not get the help they need and deserve, there are several reasons people seek substances. These are the most common ones:

  • Trying to cope with traumatic memories or block them
  • Experiencing continual feelings of loneliness or isolation
  • Trying to boost feelings of self-esteem and self-worth
  • Coping with co-occurring mental health issues and their effects

The specific types of co-occurring disorders that can develop and persist with addiction are outlined in an upcoming section. They make it much harder to beat addiction. Since drugs and alcohol help people feel detached from reality, they provide an escape from the pain and mental torture that victims feel from sexual abuse. Because many drugs are addictive and people build a tolerance to them, it takes larger amounts to achieve the same effects over time. An Australian study found that childhood sexual abuse victims who developed substance use disorders were more likely to experience a fatal drug overdose.

Common Types of Substance Use Disorders Among Sexual Abuse Victims

In a study, people who self-reported a history of childhood sexual abuse were more likely to have current or lifetime diagnoses of substance dependence or abuse. Also, women in the study who were sexually abused as children were more likely to be addicted to cocaine and stimulants. In the same study, researchers found that PTSD as a complicating factor increased the likelihood of developing an addiction to stimulants.

Sexual-Abuse-and-Addiction-Is-There-a-ConnectionResearch shows that women are more likely than men to abuse alcohol as adults if they were sexually abused as children. In one study, researchers found that men who suffered sexual abuse as kids were no more likely than non-abused men to seek alcohol.

In the study, researchers said that the gender difference was probably due to how men and women respond to being victimized. While men respond more with anger, women are more likely to internalize their feelings. Some men exhibit aggressive behavior instead, and women are more likely to turn to alcohol or another substance.

While these are the most common substance use risks, it is important to remember that all people are different. When a loved one with a history of sexual abuse shows signs of substance abuse or a co-occurring disorder, it is important to try to help.

Co-Occurring Disorders: Complicating Factors of Addiction and Sexual Abuse

A co-occurring disorder is one that exists in addition to the addiction. It may develop as a result of addiction in some cases. In most cases of people with a history of sexual abuse, a co-occurring disorder develops first and contributes to substance-seeking behavior.

In a study of people who entered addiction treatment, researchers looked at factors when participants entered treatment and six months later. Of the participants, 23% self-reported a history of sexual abuse, and researchers noted that they had more severe addictions and higher rates of psychological issues.

There are several possible co-occurring disorders in people who struggle with addiction and have a history of sexual abuse. These are the most common:


Among sexual abuse victims, anxiety is often common because there is an intense fear of the abuse happening again. People with anxiety feel a constant sense of dread or fear that something bad will happen. Depression often comes from feelings of hopelessness in people who experienced perpetual abuse. It can also stem from a single event of sexual abuse. People with depression may experience fatigue, weight gain, emotional apathy and several other symptoms.

PTSD is usually connected to nightmares or flashbacks. The flashbacks happen when a person is exposed to a trigger that reminds them of past trauma. For example, a certain object or smell may trigger intense feelings of distress. Dissociation is often a part of PTSD. It happens when a person feels disconnected from reality or their body. This is a coping mechanism that many sexual abuse survivors develop to help detach themselves from pain. However, it makes life difficult when it happens perpetually, and it makes functioning and focusing on important tasks harder.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Substance Abuse and Sexual Abuse Effects

When any co-occurring disorders exist, it is important to treat the disorder and the addiction. Dual diagnosis treatment is often a great solution for helping sexual abuse survivors who battle multiple challenges. In this specialized treatment approach, professionals address substance abuse and mental health issues concurrently. They teach people how to identify triggers, avoid or deal with triggers in various environments and develop healthier coping mechanisms.Sexual-Abuse-in-Early-Childhood-A-Risk-for-Future-Substance-Abuse

When professionals do not treat a mental health problem and only treat the addiction, the individual is far more likely to relapse. This is because a mental health issue that leads a person to seek a substance still exists after the substance is removed and the person leaves rehab. Fortunately, dual diagnosis treatment is highly effective. Patients who receive sexual abuse treatment at the same time are more likely to beat addiction and regain control of their lives.

How To Help Someone in New Jersey With an Addiction and a History of Sexual Abuse

If you know that a friend or family member has a history of sexual abuse, it is important to know the signs of an addiction. These are some signs to look for:

  • The person makes extraordinary sacrifices for odd reasons or does not provide an explanation.
  • The person withdraws from normal activities and prefers solitude.
  • The person seems to keep secrets and may go to great lengths to do so.
  • The person may go through unusual financial or legal troubles.
  • The person may have mood changes and be in denial.

You may or may not find a loved one’s supply of a substance. Also, you may or may not see a person using or consuming a substance. When you know that someone has a substance use problem, reach out for help from a rehab center. Rehab and addiction treatment to address all the complexities of sexual abuse and addiction will help a struggling loved one start to heal. 

If you are a victim of sexual abuse and struggle with an addiction, reaching out for help is difficult. However, it is the most important step to take to start your recovery journey and live a happier life. Our Fair Lawn facility serves people in the area. Please contact us to learn more about addiction treatment for sexual abuse survivors in New Jersey.

two women discussing what rehab is like

What Does a Typical Day in Rehab Look Like?

Before you enter rehab, it’s normal for you and your loved ones to have uncertainty. Fear of the unknown often keeps people like you from seeking the treatment that they need. However, you’ll soon learn that one of the hardest parts of seeking rehab treatment is walking through the door for the first time.

Once you get into rehab, you’ll settle into a daily routine that will help you take positive steps toward living a life without substance abuse. That said, what is a typical day in rehab like? Getting the answer to this question might be just the reassurance that you need to finally take the first step toward getting treatment.

What Is Rehab Like?

To make you feel more at ease with what a typical day in rehab is like, let’s walk through it. Using this information, you’ll see that you have nothing to fear from seeking rehab treatment. Rather than a place to fear, rehab is a place of healing.

It’s essential to remember that rehab is here to help not only you but also others. When you come in with a negative attitude, it affects those around you. Instead, go into rehab with a positive mindset. Rehab is only as helpful as you allow it to be.

Starting Your Day: Early Morning

In rehab, mornings typically start early. You begin by watching the sunrise and planning your goals for the day. Having daily goals is an important part of staying on track during rehab. Along with keeping you focused, completing goals makes you feel good and helps you maintain motivation throughout treatment.

After setting your goals but before starting the rest of your day, you may participate in yoga or meditation. These activities not only get you ready to go for the rest of the day but also provide extra time for reflection. Self-reflection plays an important role in rehab. The more that you can do it, the more that you’ll get out of the whole experience.

Healthy Eating and Preparing for the Day

Once you’re done setting goals and meditating, it’s time to eat a healthy, well-balanced breakfast. You won’t be able to overcome addiction or mental health issues without a proper breakfast. Eating right provides your brain with the nutrition it needs to focus on the challenges that you’ll face for the day.

If you take any medications, you’ll receive those during breakfast. Typically, staff at the rehab center handles and distributes medications of any kind. This is, of course, for safety reasons.

After breakfast, you might have a little free time before you tackle the therapy to come. You may do a little journaling, which will help you focus. On the other hand, you may get your blood pumping and burn off some of the calories from breakfast by going for a walk.

The key takeaway here is that rehab doesn’t always put you on a strict schedule. You’ll have moments of downtime to engage in other activities. How you choose to spend this free time is up to you, but focusing on self-improvement is always the best option.

Starting Therapy for the Day: Mid-Morning

Once breakfast is over and your free time ends, it’s time to start your morning therapy sessions. Therapy is the cornerstone of treatment. In most cases, you’ll participate in group therapy sessions after breakfast. These sessions help you build healthy relationships with other adults and provide a support system.

Understanding the Types of Group Therapy

Group therapy comes in many forms. In fact, the term “group therapy” is an umbrella that refers to many types of therapy. In most cases, it involves multiple individuals engaging in a discussion that a certified therapist leads. Psychoeducational and process-oriented therapies are two examples. Some of the benefits of group therapy include:

  • Improves speaking skills.
  • Builds trust.
  • Develops skills that help deal with conflict.
  • Teaches the power of having a support system.
  • Instills the importance of accountability.

Like after breakfast, you could have some free time to yourself after morning group therapy. Usually, the rehab center staff recommend that you write in your journal to help you reflect on the breakthroughs that you made during the session.

Time for Lunch: Noon

Group therapy can be emotionally exhausting. Thankfully, it’s usually lunchtime after the morning session. The break gives you time to relax and nourish your body. After all, addiction is a hard battle that you can’t win on an empty stomach.

One of the great things about lunchtime in rehab is that you can turn it into a social activity. You can make new connections. The support system that you build can make all the difference in overcoming your addiction.

Next Round of Therapy Starts: Afternoon

What is rehab like? It’s a lot of going to therapy and learning to overcome your addiction. Once you finish lunch and socializing, it’s time to start the next round of therapy sessions for the day. Typically, these therapy sessions differ from the morning group sessions.

The type of one-on-one therapy that you receive depends greatly on the rehab center that you choose. However, there are some specific types of therapy that have proved to be helpful in overcoming addiction. Below is a quick breakdown of these therapies, so make sure that your rehab center offers them.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT is based on the theory that, if you can change the way a person thinks, you can change the way that the person behaves. It’s all about ridding yourself of negative thoughts in order to get rid of negative behaviors.

Of course, CBT isn’t just good at helping people overcome addiction. It’s beneficial in helping people deal with other mental issues as well. It’s an important part of rehab because people very rarely suffer from addiction alone. They typically have other underlying mental issues. CBT and dual-diagnosis treatment can deal with both.

Family Therapy

Oftentimes, the root cause of an addiction starts within the home. Family therapy is a great way to unearth the cause. Also, addiction doesn’t only affect the person with the addiction. It affects those around that individual too.

Family therapy doesn’t have to just involve blood relatives. Anyone who you consider to be close or like family can participate in family therapy. This includes adopted parents, spouses, in-laws, and even best friends or roommates. The goal here is to rebuild the relationships that addiction has strained.

Relapse Prevention

Addiction isn’t an illness that medicine can cure. It’s a chronic disease that you must learn to manage, like diabetes or heart disease. That’s why it’s crucial to have a relapse prevention plan in place. The risk of relapse is always there, so it’s vital to have a plan to avoid it.

Relapse prevention sessions help you develop a plan that you put into action in the real world. The environment is always in your favor during rehab, but that won’t always be the case when you get out. You might find yourself around temptations or triggers.

Usually, relapse prevention sessions involve teaching you how to spot internal and external triggers. Your relapse prevention plan will give you steps to take in the event that you start feeling like you may spin out of control.

Night Therapy Sessions: Evening

Before the day ends, you’ll have more therapy sessions to go to. Often, late-night therapy sessions are a mix of one-on-one and group therapy. It just depends on your personal treatment program.

Sometimes, the day ends with a 12-step meeting or a group meeting where you can talk about your successes or failures throughout the day. Talking about them can motivate you to continue treatment or do better tomorrow. You’ll even learn that others deal with the same daily struggles as you.

Dinner and Bedtime

Depending on your schedule, dinner happens either before or after your evening therapy sessions. Like breakfast and lunch, dinner is an essential meal that keeps you healthy. Once you’re finished with dinner and therapy, it’s time to start getting ready for bed.

In rehab, bedtime comes early. You need to go to sleep early so that you can get up early to prepare for tomorrow. Additionally, it helps get you on a schedule for when you get out of rehab.

Nighttime is full of temptation. There’s an old saying that “nothing good ever happens after dark.” When struggling with addiction, this saying carries even more weight. Getting into the habit of going to bed early and continuing that routine once you get out of rehab can replace some of your more negative habits.

Visit North Jersey Recovery Center for Rehab Treatment You Can Count On

At North Jersey Recovery Center, we pride ourselves on offering high-quality drug and alcohol abuse treatment that works. We offer a wide array of services that can help you overcome addiction. Some of the programs that we offer include:

  • Sober living.
  • Dual-diagnosis treatment.
  • Intensive outpatient rehab.
  • Inpatient treatment.
  • Relapse prevention planning.
  • Therapy services.

Don’t wait any longer to get help for yourself or a loved one who struggles with drug addiction. Contact us to learn more about creating a custom treatment plan that fits your needs.

COVID-19 Preventative Measures

COVID-19 Preventative Measures

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 Coronavirus, North Jersey Recovery Center is taking steps to be proactive in ensuring that we are taking every precaution and following infection control procedures to help keep our patients & staff members safe and healthy. We understand the extreme importance of staying educated, using preventative measures, and using scientific and medical data to help make our decisions.

We are closely watching developments from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization, and the Joint Commission to ensure North Jersey Recovery Center is following current best practices.

  • COVID-19 Screening Assessment for all new intakes. Temperature and vitals recorded immediately upon arrival prior to medical assessment.
  • Isolation room available if any individual displays symptoms
  • Touchless thermometer read for all clients and staff upon arrival to our facility with consistent temperature monitoring
  • extensive disinfectant and sanitary measures on a frequently recurring schedule
  • In-house 12-step meetings
  • Arranged grocery deliveries
  • All outside visitors suspended until further notice

Our mission is to combat the global pandemic of addiction and alcoholism which remains a threat during these uncertain times. Our commitment to this mission remains our primary focus. At this time, we are accepting patients and have reinforced each step of our admissions process to ensure we are identifying all potential risk factors with prospective patients to help protect our community.

Please call us for more information at (877) 786-0572.

– North Jersey Recovery Center