A recent study by researchers from the University of Southern California and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center found that a group of girls who experienced sexual abuse had negative outcomes that followed them into adulthood.

These women were last assessed in their twenties and were found to have higher levels of mental health issues, lower education levels, and higher levels of sexual activity at a young age then the control group.

Right after the abuse the girls had heightened cortisol levels (the “stress hormone”), but after a few years they were found to have less than the normal amount of cortisol. Researchers compared their levels to those of Vietnam Vets. These levels indicate a chronic heightened state of stress. It also seems to indicate that perhaps these results can be generalized to beyond this population to all of those who experience extreme trauma.

I had an early posting I thought I was over this which talked about my clients who felt like they should be “over” certain experiences in their lives. That post talked about the emotion and memory deficits that follow people who have experienced trauma. This new research touches upon the physical changes that follow those who have been traumatized.

I hope that as researchers find these concrete results that there will be more support for early intervention for those who have been traumatized. Who knows what the outcomes could have been like for these women had they received EMDR or another PTSD treatment right after the abuse? I suspect their outcomes would have been better.