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Date of last update: 8/24/2017.

Forum Name: Psychiatric Topics

Question: how do i tell my doctor i have been sexually abused?

 clare - Wed Aug 27, 2008 5:46 pm

i am 20 now. i was sexually abused by my neighbour from the age of 3 to 7. it was dealt with at the time and my parents took me to the police etc but after a few weeks was never mentioned again. i know my mum blames herself although it was not her fault.

i was admitted to hospital aged 12 because i could not keep down food. i would vomit after every meal. i am still bulimic now. i was referred then to a behavioural psychologist as i also self harmed - this only lasted a few weeks as however as i would lie and tell everyone that i was fine.

i am in a relationship now and my partner is as supportive as he can be, however i cannot let him anywhere near me. i have flash backs, nightmares and panic attacks and lash out at him if he tries to be close to me. everyting seems to be getting on top of me.

sorry, this is pretty longwinded.

please help,


the most ridiculous thing is that i am going into my 4th year of studying medicine and i feel stupid that i don't know what to do. i am afraid that if i speak to my doctor they will think i am mad and unable to carry on with my studies. i am not depressed. most of the time i am fine...i can be fine for weeks on end but sometimes i get quite uptight.
 Dr. E. Seigle - Sat Aug 30, 2008 8:21 pm

Dear Clare,

There is nothing ridiculous or shameful about what you are experiencing, which is probably a upsurge of long-repressed emotional material related to your awful experience of being sexually abused as a young child. As you probably know, this kind of delayed reaction is called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and it is extremely common among women who have been abused.

The good news is that this is like a long-hidden boil that can now be lanced, cleaned and healed. Your being in a new relationship and studying medicine is more than ample explanation for why this would be triggered at this time.

The treatment that you primarily need is psychotherapy provided by a therapist with lots of expertise in treating sexually abused women. Sometimes when the sometimes are difficult to manage, a psychiatrist can prescribe medication to help with these, because as you get started, symptoms may get more difficult for awhile before they get better.

The biggest enemy for people healing from sexual abuse is unlearning the feelings of shame about the experience itself, and the fact that it exerts a strong influence upon their life so many years later. There is no shame in this, it is normal, healthy, and is part of the process of healing, growth, and even becoming a more mature, developed person than many people are who have not had such a horrific experience.

Good luck, you are brave, and it's okay to feel the many varied feelings that you will have. Please find yourself a psychotherapist, psychiatrist, or even start with a physician or the mental health service at your school to get started on telling your story. Please try to honor it rather than be ashamed of it!

-Eliot Seigle MD

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