Psychiatric and physical sequelae of childhood physical and sexual abuse and forced sexual trauma among individuals with serious mental illness

Andrew M Subica
Journal of Traumatic Stress 2013, 26 (5): 588-96
Trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) frequently co-occur with serious mental illness, yet the unique mental and physical health influences of childhood physical abuse (CPA), childhood sexual abuse (CSA), and forced sexual trauma on individuals with serious mental illness remain unevaluated. The present study of 172 individuals with serious mental illness investigated the adverse effects of CPA, CSA, and forced sexual trauma on severity of PTSD and depression, and overall mental and physical health functioning. Data analysis consisted of chi-square tests, independent t tests, bivariate odds ratios, and linear regressions. Prevalence of CPA (44.8%), CSA (29.1%), and forced sexual trauma (33.1%) were elevated, and nearly one third of participants (31.4%) reported clinical PTSD. Participants exposed to CSA or forced sexual trauma evidenced bivariate ORs ranging from 4.13 to 7.02 for PTSD, 2.44 to 2.50 for major depression, and 2.14 to 2.31 for serious physical illness/disability. Sexual trauma exposure associated with heightened PTSD and depression, and reduced mental and physical health functioning, with CSA uniquely predicting PTSD, depression, and physical health difficulties. CPA less significantly affected these clinical domains. Sexual traumas have profound negative effects on mental and physical health outcomes among individuals with serious mental illness; increased screening and treatment of sexual traumas is needed.

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