Every year more than 1 billion children between the ages of 2 and 17 experiences physical, sexual, and emotional abuse according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The effects of child abuse are nothing short of traumatic with the affected children often struggling with the aftermath long into adulthood. Long-term mental health problems such as PTSD, depression, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders in adults are a very common result of child abuse. Of the numerous personality disorders that present in adults, Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is the most prevalent among adult survivors of childhood abuse.
The effects of abuse linger on
For a child, feeling numb is a very useful defense mechanism as it helps them to cope with the often harrowing circumstances at home. By forcing yourself to become numb you can block out a lot of the screaming, painful comments, and physical or sexual abuse that has to be endured. As an adult, however, you cannot continue to use numbness, dissociation, and denial as coping mechanisms as it will not only interfere with your ability to function on a daily basis but can also exacerbate especially a number of underlying personality disorders.
Child abuse may lead to BPD in adults
For nearly 3 decades researchers have been studying the causes, development, and subsequent treatment of borderline personality disorder. According to researched archived in the US National Library of Medicine, the onset of BPD depends on a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. A considerable number of studies have also found that the prevalence of BPD is significantly higher in adults who experienced varying degrees of physical abuse, sexual abuse, or exposure to violence as children. It has further been found that childhood sexual abuse is seemingly linked to an increased risk of attempted suicides among adults with BPD.
BPD not the only disorder brought on by abuse
While it may be the most common, BPD is definitely not the only adult personality disorder linked to child abuse. According to data compiled through a community-based longitudinal study, different personality disorders were linked to various types of abuse. Physical abuse was most often associated with a higher prevalence of BPD, depression, antisocial personality disorder, and schizoid disorder while childhood neglect is associated with BPD, narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and paranoia.
Child abuse is without a doubt one of the biggest evils of our time and one with the most far-reaching consequences. Although personality disorders, in general, can be treated with relative success, it will often require extensive therapy and an endless supply of love and patience to help a childhood abuse survivor lead a happy and fulfilling life.