Victims of sexual abuse, regardless of gender or age when the abuse occurred, are more likely to suffer from multiple psychiatric disorders, new research has said.
The research establishes that a history of sexual abuse is associated with suicide attempts, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, depression, and eating and sleep disorders.
Additionally, associations between sexual abuse and depression, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder were strengthened by a history of rape.
"Survivors of sexual abuse are commonly seen in general medical practice," said Ali Zirakzadeh of Mayo Clinic Division of General Internal Medicine.
"Sexual abuse survivors face a challenging spectrum of physical and mental health symptoms, which results in high health care utilization, oftentimes without improvement in quality of life," he added.
The study reports prevalence rates of sexual abuse in some populations are as high as 21 percent in adults and 33 percent in children. Furthermore, sexual abuse survivors can represent up to 25 percent of patient panels in primary care practices.
"The protective effect of certain genes against the development of psychiatric disorders in abuse survivors is an intriguing prospect.
If confirmed, future testing may more effectively identify victims of abuse who are at increased risk to develop psychiatric disease and lead to the development of better interventions and treatment" said Zirakzadeh.
"The good news for patients is that physicians are now more aware of the link between abuse and psychiatric illness so that abuse survivors may be more readily identified and referred to specialists for treatment.
"We hope that heightened awareness in clinical practice leads to improved outcomes for our patients," he added.
The findings of the research were published in theJuly issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.