Researchers want survivors of sexual assault to know that it is normal to feel terrible right after the assault, but that many will feel better within three months.
In a meta-analysis published in Trauma, violence and abuse, the researchers found that 81% of survivors of sexual assault had significant symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) one week after the aggression. One month later, the first time PTSD could be diagnosed, 75% of survivors of sexual assault met the criteria for the disorder. This figure fell to 54% after three months and to 41% after one year.
“One of the main takeaways is that most recoverytraumatic stress it happens in the first three months, “said lead author Emily Dworkin, an adjunct professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the University of Washington School of Medicine.” Hopefully this will give survivors and doctors an idea of what to expect and convey some hope. “
The authors said it was the first meta-analysis of survivors’ PTSD symptoms in the first year after sexual assault. Her research highlighted previous findings that PTSD is frequent and severe after sexual assault and provided more details about the recovery schedule.
The authors analyzed 22 studies that had evaluated PTSD in survivors of sexual assault over time, beginning shortly after the traumatic event. The studies cumulatively included 2,106 survivors of sexual assault.
PTSD is characterized by symptoms such as reliving a traumatic event in nightmares, intrusive thoughts, or flashbacks; prevent them from being reminded of the event; increases in negative emotions and decreases in positive emotions; self-blame; and feeling “stuck” or on the edge, Dworkin said.
Various proven interventions, such as prolonged exposure therapy and cognitive processing therapy, help people recover from sexual assault and other trauma. Dworkin said it is important for people to seek help if PTSD symptoms interfere with their functioning, no matter how much time passes since the traumatic event.
Dworkin and Michele Bedard-Gilligan, co-authors of this study, are currently testing ways to speed up the recovery process of recent survivors. One is one smartphone app which teaches evidence-based coping skills. Survivors of recent sexual assaults can learn more about this and other studies by visiting thriveappstudy.com.
Emily R. Dworkin et al, PTSD during the year following sexual assault: a meta-analysis of prospective studies, Trauma, violence and abuse (2021). DOI: 10.1177 / 15248380211032213
University of Washington School of Medicine
Citation: 75% of survivors of sexual assault have PTSD one month later (2021, July 20) recovered on July 20, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-07-sexual-assault-survivors -ptsd-month.html
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